The wheels are turning at MUI Group which owns legacy brands like Laura Ashley, Metrojaya and Corus Hotel.
Second-generation CEO and Executive Chairman Andrew Khoo has set out a transformation plan to bring MUI’s relevance back to the market after years of languishing performance.
"The company has a big history within Malaysia. The heydays (were) in the 1980s and since then, it has been a period of consolidation.
"To me, it is a journey and we haven’t finished telling the story," says Khoo. 'Right now, we’re going through a period of transformation. It’s a wonderful time to do that. In fact, we need to do that so that we can build the right foundations for the next 20 to 30 years."
I want to focus on less things, and then do it better
"We’re in a lot of things and we may not potentially put our maximum energies and our effort into them," says Khoo when asked if over-diversification - with MUI's business empire spanning from retail, hotel to confectionary and property development - a factor that contributed to the company's lacklustre performance in recent years.
"We are going through a period of rationalisation - I want to focus on less things, and then do it better," he adds.
Among some of Khoo's plans is to revamp Laura Ashley to become a lifestyle brand. "With Laura Ashley, we’re moving into tea room concepts and hotels." MUI has rebranded some of its assets under the Corus Hotel brand in the United Kingdom into Laura Ashley hotels.
The company is also looking to expand rapidly into China and Australia. 'We’re looking to move into Australia and Asia with our Laura Ashley hotels. We're looking at our first spa. So Laura Ashley is moving into tearooms, hotels, spa with spa products as well. It becomes a true lifestyle proposition," he says.
"Our current exposure in China for Laura Ashley is through e-commerce. The next step is to broaden that into more categories. Secondly, we have tied up with a very strong licensee to create a license program in China."
"We are about to go back into the Australian market where MUI will be the franchisee. We are planning to open the first store in Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne.
'Beyond that, we have a piece of land in Hobart, Tasmania. We plan on building a Laura Ashley hotel, resort and spa. That would take about two to three years to build, says Khoo.
Watch the full interview to find out what is in store for Metrojaya as MUI injects new brands to revitalise its retail offering at the department store. Khoo also shares his plans to bring MUI forward whilst preserving the legacy his father Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng instilled in the company, which he helmed for almost six decades.