Small family-run businesses in the markets can be passed down to members of the next generation, who are more willing to continue the business now that there is a better operating environment.

“By making the market stalls more visible and accessible, our modernised fresh markets have proven to be more user-friendly and attractive to customers,”

says Hongchoy. “Younger generations of our tenants are willing to take up the family business under the new market model due to the improved environment and better image.”

When businesses are kept in the family, it helps to preserve the continuity of market culture.

“Our business model creates financial, environmental and social value”

Mr and Mrs Lau at Hon Cheong Seafood in Lok Fu market are the third generation to run their stall. Instead of delegating the task to staff members, the couple still choose their seafood themselves to ensure product quality.

Mrs Lau knows about community building. She previously ran a seafood restaurant where she used to befriend her customers, and this personal approach is applied equally to her present business.

After the market’s renovation, new regular shoppers have arrived from nearby districts, and the Laus’ stall has been enlarged to cater to the growing business. Hearing about their experience makes it easier to understand the value created for the community by the market improvements.

“We do look at the environmental, social and economic impact of our market enhancement schemes,”

says Hongchoy. “After analysis, we found that our Lok Fu renovation project generated HK$4-HK$6 in socio-economic benefit for every HK$1 we invested. This came in improved efficiency for our tenants, reduced carbon emissions due to lower energy consumption, and the creation of new jobs. This demonstrates that our business model creates financial, environmental and social value.”

Revitalising the markets has been a gradual process of testing out ideas but it has been a success, according to Nicholas Sallnow-Smith, the previous chairman, who oversaw the first stages of the project.

“Probably we got one of the best public reactions to anything that we’ve done,”

he says. “A successful market is quite good press. If you just upscale a shopping centre, you don’t get too many journalists coming to take pictures. They’ve seen shopping centres before. But a thriving market is something different.”

Buying produce on a regular basis and cooking it fresh every day is part and parcel of Hong Kong life, says Allen. “And therefore fresh markets are really central to that, and it’s something we’re proud of. We’re keeping that tradition going and making it greater whenever we do an extra market renovation.”