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Li Fung Tower, held by the Li & Fung Ltd., in Hong Kong, China, on May 30, 2013.
Li Fung Tower, held by the Li & Fung Ltd., in Hong Kong, China, on May 30, 2013.
(LAM YIK FEI FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Look to Hong Kong data for a glimpse into global retail troubles

If you want any more evidence that commerce has been globalized, just cast a glance at Wall Street this morning where analysts have been scanning the half-year financial figures published by a Chinese trader, Li & Fung, hoping to glean some wisdom about the future of Main Street, USA.

The feng shui from Hong Kong is distinctly bearish. Li & Fung Ltd. is a logistics and supply management firm, in simple terms a middle-man that bridges the gap between big fashion and apparel retailers, such as Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Marks & Spencer Group PLC and their largely Asian suppliers. Owning no sewing machines and employing no seamstresses, it nonetheless is at the cutting edge of global retailing, making $8.7-billion (U.S.) in revenues over six months. It is no more nor less than the back office for some very big brands, organizing the supply of raw materials, the manufacturing, the distribution and warehousing of the frocks you see in the shops.