Date
21 September 2018
Coils Lam Wai-chun founded the popular groceries and snacks chain 759 Store in 2010 to diversify his business following the global financial crisis. Photo: Bloomberg
Coils Lam Wai-chun founded the popular groceries and snacks chain 759 Store in 2010 to diversify his business following the global financial crisis. Photo: Bloomberg

759 Store founder Lam Wai-chun dies at 61

Coils Lam Wai-chun, who founded the groceries and snacks chain 759 Store in 2010, has died. He was 61.

In a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, CEC International Holdings Ltd., the parent of 759 Store, said Lam, its chairman, passed away on Saturday afternoon at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, without disclosing the cause of his death.

Tang Fung-kwan, executive director of the company, whose stock code 0759.HK is used as the name of the store, said in the filing its board will do its best to maintain operations by sticking to the business strategies laid down by the late chairman.

The board will remap its composition and further announcement will be made as soon as practicable, according to the filing.]

The board thanked Lam for having provided tremendous leadership, guidance and support to the group and extended the board’s deepest condolences to Lam’s family on behalf of all staff.

Some netizens mourned Lam’s death on 759 Store’s Facebook page after learning about his passing, with some praising him for having successfully fought against the hegemony of supermarket chains in Hong Kong’s retail market, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Lam started out by joining a Japanese electronics company after completing primary school. He established CEC International in 1979 to engage in businesses of manufacturing and selling electronic parts before taking it public 20 years later.

After the 2008 financial crisis seriously hurt the company’s revenues, Lam decided to change its direction by stepping into the snacks retailing business. The first 759 Store, or “Ah-Shun Uk” in Cantonese, opened in 2010.

According to Lam, the name “Ah-Shun” originated from the 1980s Japanese TV drama called Oshin, whose same-name heroine was known by the mass audience for perseverance and tenacity.

The 759 Store, which mainly sells food items imported from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, quickly became popular and tripled the number of its branches in Hong Kong in the five years after its launch because it set prices much lower than supermarkets.

However, the retail sector’s slowdown in Hong Kong plus intense competition forced the chain to significantly tighten its business in recent years, and it was rumored that Lam had planned to close the business.

Lam once told media that he was not a snacks person. He faced a number of health issues; he had suffered stroke twice and had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Ricky Wong Wai-kay, co-founder and chairman of Hong Kong Television Network Ltd., whose online shopping mall HKTV mall has been seen as 759 Store’s biggest competitor, said he was sorry to learn of Lam’s passing.

He said he admired Lam’s perseverance, noting that the businessman was able to build a snacks giant and turn around his company.

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TL/JC/CG

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