Bargain Electrical Co (平霸電業) and System One (新一系電器)

York Lo: Bargain Electrical Co (平霸電業) and System One (新一系電器)

Bargain Electrical Co and System One were two leading electronics retailers in Hong Kong in the 1970s and 1980s respectively that have since faded into history. The former was best remembered for its low prices and catchy TV commercials while the latter was launched by the conglomerate First Pacific and focused on product quality and service rather than low prices.

Bargain Electrical Co

Bargain Electrical Co And System One Image 1 York Lo

Left: 1978 ad for Bargain Electrical listing its stores and promoting (WKYP, 1978-6-3); Right: Screenshot from Bargain Electrical’s commercial in 1977 (YouTube)

It is unclear when Bargain Electrical was established but by 1975, the chain had two stores – 564 Nathan Road and 357 Hennessy Road. (TKP, 1975-5-9)In November that year, the firm promoted water heaters which could be bought at $29 per month. (WKYP, 1975-11-1) In December, Bargain promoted $200 off a 22-inch color television for $1499, which was allegedly the lowest price in the industry for similar models. (WKYP, 1975-12-5)The chain’s Chinese name translate to “Lord of Discounts” and to highlight that point,the firm’s slogan was “if it’s not the cheapest, we wouldn’t dare to call ourselves the Lord” (唔係最,唔敢稱).

In 1976, Bargain promoted free antenna installation service for customers who bought TV sets from them. (WKYP, 1976-4-2)

In 1977, Bargain began to air its classic TV commercials featuring voiceovers by the TV stars Tam Ping-man and English Tang (鄧英敏).According to Tang, several advertisers accused TVB of giving Bargain preferential treatment and played their commercial at a louder volume but after investigation, the commercial just sounded louder because his voice worked well with the recording equipment. (鄧英敏司儀口才百寶箱, 2014)

By 1978, Bargain had five stores according to the ad above, including two on Nathan Road (687 and 564), 20 Choi Hung Road in Kowloon and 58 Percival Street and 357 Hennessy Road in Wanchai.

In July 1979, the Bargain store at 680 Nathan Road was burglarized and $7000 in cash and $63000 worth of merchandise was stolen. (KSDN, 1979-7-17)

As a firm, Bargain Electrical was incorporated in 1978 and dissolved in 1993.

Bargain Electrical Co And System One Image 2 York Lo

One of Bargain Electrical’s store from its 1977 commercial.

TV commercial for Bargain in 1977:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsOX4WGRarU

TV commercials for Bargain Electrical in 1981:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNsL1tHNQQg

System One

Bargain Electrical Co And System One Image 3 York Lo

Left: System One’s sixth store on Nathan Road in 1989 (WKYP, 1989-1-18); Right: System One ad on a China Motor Bus in 1993 (China Motor Bus Memorial Page)

System One was founded in 1987 as Pacitic Consumer Electronics (中信太平家電器材) and based on the name the venture likely started out as a joint venture between First Pacific and CITIC. At the time, First Pacific, which was founded by the Indonesian Chinese tycoon LiemSioe-liong, was keen on the retail sector in HK, having just acquired 40% and eventually 100% of the retailer Dragon Seed Co (see article). Pacitic first operated under the Pacific Electronics Centre (中太電業中心) and with its strong parent backing, the chain quickly opened stores in Central (113-115 Des Voeux Road Central), Causeway Bay (60 Percival Street), and Kwun Tong(34-62 Yu Man Square) in its first year of operations. Unlike Bargain, the chain focused on fixed prices rather than low prices (as some customers were annoyed with the large price dispersions in the market) and emphasized on product quality and customer services.

In December 1987, the chain opened its largest store at 26 Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mongkok which occupied over 10000 sq ft and was the largest single electronics store in Hong Kong with two 100-inch TV walls. (WKYP, 1987-12-20). To promote itself, the chain along with First Pacific and Dragon Seed were the sponsors of the Chinese New Year fireworks celebration in early 1988. (WKYP, 1988-1-22) The same year, the firm changed its name to First Pacific Consumer Electronics Ltd (第一太平家電器材) and the chain changed its name to System One.

Bargain Electrical Co And System One Image 4 York Lo

Left: screenshot from System One’s commercial listing the locations of its five stores in 1991; Right: article about the opening of Pacitic’s fourth store in Mongkok in 1987

In January 1989, System One opened its sixth store on Nathan Road in Yaumatei. (WKYP, 1989-1-18)

In January 1990, Japanese electronics retailerDai-ichi Katei Denki Co (第一家庭電器) purchased First Pacific Consumer Electronics and System One from First Pacific Co for HK$45.5 million. (Country Report: Hong Kong, Macau, 1990) As a result, First Pacific Consumer Electronics became Daichi Kaden System One Ltd (第一家電香港有限公司). Under Daichi Kaden, System One continued to expand and had stores in New Territories in Shatin, Tuen Mun and Tai Po, Cityplaza in HK island and Dragon Centre in Sham Shui Po in addition to the locations listed above but unable to compete with the likes of Fortress and keep up with the soaring rent in HK, the chain eventually shut down by the end of the 1990s.

TV commercial for System One in 1991:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eamX26vbMNw

This article was first posted on 5th April 2021.

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