Lionel Lee on Sony Centres, Business and Family

By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY: There is no favouritism associated with running a Sony Centre, it’s simply about diversifying the business. That’s the view of Bing Lee CEO Lionel Lee, who spoke to yesterday afternoon.

After we exclusively revealed the locations of the next two Sony Centre stores yesterday, on which the Sydney-based store will be run by Bing Lee, Lionel Lee contacted us to clarify a few issues relating to how Sony Centres operate.

“Each Sony Centre store is individually-owned,” said Lee.

Lee said he first envisaged running ‘Sony Only’ stores after learning of such outlets in Canada over a decade ago. He wanted to make it clear that it was he who approached Sony and Carl Rose, now the managing director of Sony Australia, with the idea – it was not the other way around.

“I discussed it with Carl Rose, but it was too early for Sony back then, but then we came to an agreement 10 years later.”

It was too early for Sony back then, but the pair came to an agreement later, with Bing Lee becoming the operators of Sony Centres in Chatswood and the Sydney CBD. A third store will open Drummoyne this June.

“We purchased this land in late 2007 with the view for a purpose-built Sony Centre store,” said Lee. “We will always look at opportunities outside the Bing Lee brand,” said Lee.

When asked whether Sony Centres reduced sales from the mass merchant stores, especially those in close proximity, Lee said the inverse in his business’ case was true.

“We’ve done our numbers, and the sales numbers out of our Bing Lee Haymarket store, which is just down the road from the Sydney CBD Sony Centre, have not been affected, so it’s only affected us positively.”

When asked for his thoughts on whether it’s a good idea to snub manufacturers who choose to open their own branded stores, Lee said that would go against everything his family business stands for.

“We would never do that to any of our suppliers, it’s not how I was brought up, you do not treat any of your suppliers that way.

“Ours is a family-run business based on relationships. Business should be a pleasure to do, and I don’t like doing business any other way. We have our manufactures to thank for the longevity of the Bing Lee business, because without their products, we simply wouldn’t have a business.”

Lee concluded by saying he was very grateful to Rose and Sony Australia for the opportunity to run Sony Centres.

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