It has been serving British tea to shoppers from its London store since the reign of Queen Anne.
Now Fortnum and Mason, the royal grocer, is to open its first international shop and restaurant abroad, having waited three centuries for the right moment.
The privately owned retailer, bought by the billionaire Weston family in 1951, chose Hong Kong as the destination for its first venture abroad.
It comes at a critical time for the U.K., as it wrestles to leave the EU. The investment will be seen as a strong sign that British firms are shrugging off uncertainty around Brexit to invest and grow.
Kate Hobhouse, chairman of Fortnum & Mason, said: “This also represents a significant opportunity for Fortnum’s British suppliers, who produce 86% of the retailer’s products in the U.K.”
Fortnum’s new 7,000-square-foot home will be in K11 MUSEA, a new retail destination situated in the heart of Hong Kong’s $2.6 billion Victoria Dockside redevelopment. The shop and restaurant will open in September.
“This opening represents a significant milestone for the business as the first Fortnum’s store and restaurant concept outside of the UK,” Hobhouse said. “We are excited to establish our presence in Asia in such a pioneering development.”
The business has come a long way since 1707, when builder William Fortnum took a post as footman in Queen Anne’s household and started selling Her Majesty’s half-used candle wax at a profit.
He was renting a room from shopkeeper Hugh Mason, and the pair went into business together.
During the Victorian era, the store provided food for prestigious court functions, and Queen Victoria was even reputed to have sent shipments of Fortnum and Mason’s concentrated beef tea to Florence Nightingale’s hospitals during the Crimean War.
It was the birthplace of the Scotch egg in 1886, and was the first store in Britain to stock tins of baked beans made by a Mr. H.J. Heinz.
The new store will sell quintessentially British products including tea, biscuits, Scotch eggs, handmade chocolates and wicker hampers, and feature a restaurant upstairs with views across Hong Kong Harbour.
The firm already has distribution contracts with partners who sell its items abroad, but this will be its first standalone shop and restaurant outside England. It has retail partnerships across Asia, including Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Isetan Mitsukoshi in Japan and, most recently, Shinsegae in South Korea.
“Building on our 47 years of experience in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, our latest expansion in Asia is an important next step for us, as we extend our reach further across the world,” Hobhouse said.
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