It seems as if even Chinese food sales can be hit by a recession. As families tightened their belts, turnover at Nechells-based Chinese food wholesaler Wing Yip dipped back below £100 million.
Pre-tax profits also dropped from £6.9 million to £4.9 million, reflecting the challenging trading environment with consumers’ disposable incomes falling. The dividend to shareholders was maintained at £700,000.
Nonetheless Woon Wing Yip OBE continues to invest, with around £5 million going into a major expansion of his 10-acre Nechells-based Chinese and oriental superstore and headquarters.
Wing Yip’s existing store and head office now stretches to 83,000 sq ft with a new 30,000 sq ft warehouse, as well as the existing business centre, two restaurants and the Bank of East Asia.
Wing Yip now supplies more than 2,000 Chinese restaurants throughout the UK. His four major outlets employ more than 350 people.
The business, run by Wing Yip’s nephew Henry Yap, is expanding elsewhere, too, including a Chinese superstore in Nottingham. A store in Cardiff and the expansion of existing premises in Manchester, Croydon and Cricklewood have all added to Wing Yip’s asset value.
The company has also expanded its traditional Chinese food offering into a pan-Asian concept, covering the cuisine of Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Wing Yip is passionate about education – he sees it as the secret of his own success – and has handed out hundreds of bursaries over the last 13 years to youngsters of Chinese descent to help them complete their education in the UK. He also supports young chefs with the Oriental Cookery Young Chef of the Year award for 18 to 25 year-olds.
It was Woon Wing Yip’s ability to speak English when he came to the UK from Hong Kong 50 years ago that meant he could move up the ladder in business.
He is proud of the fact that his four children –Albert, Brian, Cindy and David – were all able to have a good education, thanks to their father’s success. All his children work in the business with the exception of Cindy who works for a television company in Hong Kong.
Woon Wing Yip, who is 75, arrived in the UK by boat from Hong Kong in 1959. He opened a restaurant in a former tea shop in Clacton-on-Sea and went on to open three more restaurants and two takeaways in East Anglia.
His first Chinese grocers shop opened in Digbeth, Birmingham in 1970, employing 10 people.
As well as selling Wing Yip branded products in his own supermarkets, they are also sold through national chains including Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose, and there is a thriving online business. The firm is consistently profitable.
The Wing Yip business has branched out into property development, management and investment through W Wing Yip and Brothers Property and Investment, with around 100 commercial and residential tenants around the country. Their trading and property businesses are easily worth £95 million.
He also established the Wing Yip Charitable Trust in 1985, topped up by annual donations from the Wing Yip business, which supports the Prince’s Trust and also gives money to educational, poverty relief and sickness charities.