Wellcome, the largest modern supermarket chain in Taiwan, is planning on opening 12 more stores in the country this year, a senior company official said yesterday.
Owned by Hong Kong-based Dairy Farm International Holdings Limited, the foreign retailer is also looking at opening at least one Jason's Market Place in 2006, said Joe Fieg, merchandise director of Wellcome Taiwan Company Ltd.
To date, the grocery franchise is operating 168 supermarkets in the country plus three high-end Jason's shops, Fieg said.
"We are very upbeat (this year)," the executive said during the launch of Wellcome's three-month "The Dog" campaign yesterday.
"We are looking at opening 12 stores this year. Jason's is also a part of Wellcome, and we now have three Jason's in Taiwan located at the Taipei 101 Mall, Takashimaya (Department Store in the Shihlin district), and (Han Shin Department Store) in Kaohsiung. We are planning on opening one more Jason's in 2006."
Just like other retailers, Wellcome is seeing a tremendous increase in customer traffic because of the Lunar New Year holidays.
To sweeten the deal, the grocery operator said it will be giving away roughly 300,000 "The Dog" soft toys from January 27 to April 6. Japan's No. 1 puppy franchise, Wellcome's "The Dog" collection - pure bred puppies famous for their extra large heads and petite bodies - is comprised of eight cute characters including the Papillon (loyal and obedient but possessive of its owner), West Highland White Terrier (quick, smart and playful), Bulldog (famously courageous), Dalmatian (energetic and cheerful), and the Basset Hound (a great companion and a great eater).
"What better way to celebrate the Lunar New Year - the Year of the Dog - than to give away dogs for free? Everyone in Taiwan loves dogs, and we will try to give as many (soft toys) as possible," Fieg said.
According to the executive, shoppers only need to collect 25 stamps from Wellcome to get their favorite puppy character.
Between January 27 and April 6, customers who spend at least NT$250 at Wellcome will be getting one stamp. Alternatively, they may also redeem one toy for NT$79 if they have collected at least 15 stamps.
On Saturdays and Sundays, shoppers who spend at least NT$750 at any Wellcome store will be getting double stamps. Double stamps will not be awarded on public holidays that fall on weekdays.
Stamps will be awarded based on the actual price paid after discount coupons and cash coupons, and will not be based on the original price, the supermarket said.
"The Dog" promotion is costing Wellcome a substantial sum.
"It's a lot of money but we are rewarding customer loyalty," said Fieg, a Basset Hound fan. "If people shop regularly at Wellcome, they should get something for free in return."
The executive prided Wellcome for its extensive fresh produce section, quality goods, and "good value pricing."
"That's Wellcome's (trademark)," Fieg said. "We don't put our prices up. In fact, we have many, many specials available every week."
This weekend, several Wellcome stores will be operating until late evening, he added.
"We never close," said the official. "A lot of our stores are open 24 hours a day, and we will be open (until late evening) on Lunar New Year's Eve."
In addition to its brick-and-mortar shops, Wellcome also operates an e-shop comprising a bakeshop, flower shop, restaurant, health store, and electronics outlet.
In 2003, Wellcome's parent company - Dairy Farm International - acquired the Kayo supermarket chain from Huei Yang Co. Ltd. The purchase fitted perfectly with Wellcome's strategy of growing its Taiwan supermarket business through acquisition as well as organic growth, the company said.
The resulting integration strengthened Wellcome's foothold in Taiwan's food retailing market, and showed its commitment of long-term investment in the country, it added.