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Wing on Company Recalled
Traditionally, most of the Chinese stores in days of old handled specialized trades. Though there had been multiple-handling business establishments dealing in both imported sundry goods and groceries in cities like Guangzhou in the south and Beijing in the north, there establishments were of such small size and had such a small assortment of goods that they could not be called department stores. Towards the end of the 19th century, on the Bund close to Nanjing Road there appeared the Hall & Holtz Co., Ltd., the first department store in shanghai. In 1913, Whiteaway Laidlaw & Co., Ltd., which claimed to handle general merchandise from various parts of the World, was set up at the intersection of Nanjing and Sichuan Roads. Both department stores, however, failed to have much influence because they mainly served foreigners and influential Chinese.
In 1917 and 1918 respectively, there emerged Sincere and Wing on, two large companies dealing in merchandise, thereby opening up a new field for the trade in question. Thereafter, department stores of various sizes were opened in Shanghai and soon other cities in China began to follow suit. Sincere, Wing On, Sun Sun, and The Sun, the last two having been established a bit later, were known as the "Four Big Companies", ranking first in the whole country for capital, scop, and turnover. Among the four companies the one having the greatest influence was, as might be expected, Wing On. The reason, when traced, lay in its clever moves and shrewd business sense.

The Wing On Roof Garden, operated by the Wing On Group

The Wing On Company Building completed in 1918
In those days Nanjing road was already the busiest shopping centre in Shanghai. Prior to Guo's arrangements, the Sincere Company had elected to open an emporium on the north-south sector of the intersection of Nanjing Road and Zhejiang Road where the Guo brothers also planned to erect a building. With this in mind they surveyed the commercial and residential situation north and south of Nanjing Road, and found that while there were few busy sectors north of the road, there were many residential areas to the south and west with a good many wealthy families residing there. Then the two brothers decided to lease the land and have their own building constructed south of Nanjing Road just opposite the Sincere Company. Silas Hardoon, the owner of the land, demanded an annual rent of 50,000 taels of silver for a lease of 30 years, on the condition that the land was to be taken back together with the building upon expiration of the lasse. After meticulous estimations the Guo brother made up their minds to accept those extremely harsh terms.
With the completion of the building, the Guo brothers, in order to viewith the Sincere Company and Whiteaway Laidlaw for business, took great pains with the layout of their four-storied emporium. On the ground floor were departments selling daily-use articles, cosmetics, knit goods, hardware, sweets, biscuits, canned food, cigarettes, ect. Dazzling, attractive and rich in variety, these items found ready buyers. Departments on the first floor offered woolen goods, silks and satins, piece goods and garments for sale. Here the hall was made much more spacious so that various pieces of materials could be spread over the counters by the customers. The second floor was set aside for jewellery, watches and clocks, and musical instruments, while the third floor sold furniture, leather suitcases, rugs, and bicycles. As the two uopper floors handled middle and high-grade goods, most of the customers going there already had something in mind to buy, this bringing about a large turnover. To this day the Wing On-initiated layout is still adopted by many department stores in other Chinese cities. The Sincere Company had formerly used the ground floor of their building as a tea hall, resulting in a crowding of customers on the first and second floor because of their relatively small space for business. They then set about making improvements by imitating Wing On's way of doing business.
At first, Wing On sold mainly imported goods such as French cosmetics, British woolens, Czechoslovakian glassware, and Swiss watches. When a widespreas campaign was launched to advocate buying Chinese goods, Wing On opened up new sources of homemade goods by setting up their own workshops and processing factories. Engaging well-known technicians and skilled workers at high wages, Wing On now shifted to self-production and self-marketing, and soon made a name for selling goods of their own make. They also gave financial aid to a number of small and medium-sized factortes so that in time they became Wing On's special manufacturers. As for the local and special products of other parts of the country such as Jingdezhen porcelain, Fujian lacquerware, Huzhou silk floss, and Jinhua hams, Wing On sent their people to the respective producing areas to place orders, specifying that the goods should be labelled "Made under the Supervision of the Wing On Company". In this way, Wing On quite unexpectedly achieved double the result with half the effort in competition.
The two buildins of the Wing On Company
Since the Wing On Company went into operation on September 5, 1918, its business had blways been good. Thought the company was renamed the No. 10 Department Store after liberation, the old name of Wing On has never been forgotten. With China's adoption of the policy of opening to the outside world, an agreement has been reached between Shanghai and the Wing On Group of Hong Kong to the effect that the No. 10 Department Store will be restored to its original name. IN addition the building will be extended and there will be a notable increase of distinctive commodities. The Wing On Company will soon take on an entirely new look on Nanjing Road.


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