Hong Kong retail sales plummet

Hong Kong retail sales plummeted 8.5 per cent year on year in December, ending a dismal year for retailers.

It followed a revised 7.8 per cent fall in November.

For the full 2015 year, Hong Kong retail sales fell 3.7 per cent in value and 0.3 per cent in volume according to data released by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD).

The value of total retail sales in December 2015 was provisionally estimated at $43.7 billion.

And a government spokesman, commenting on the data, warns there is little chance of respite in the short term.

“Apart from the continued slowdown in inbound tourism, the uncertain economic outlook and asset market corrections may also have dented local consumption sentiment.

“Looking ahead, the near-term outlook for retail sales will still be constrained by the weak performance of inbound tourism,” he said.

“The negative spillovers on consumer sentiment from the consolidation of asset markets in recent periods, as well as from external headwinds including dimmer global economic prospects amid the US interest rate normalisation, also need to be closely watched.

“The government will continue to monitor the performance of retail business and its repercussions on the wider economy and the job market.”

After netting out the effect of price changes year on year, the volume of total retail sales in December decreased by 6.1 per cent. The revised estimate of the volume of total retail sales in November 2015 decreased by 6 per cent.

Sales of jewellery, watches and clocks and valuable gifts decreased by 17 per cent. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (down 12.1 per cent); commodities in department stores (down 12.3 per cent); medicines and cosmetics (down 7.5 per cent); electrical goods and photographic equipment (down 9.3 per cent); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (down 10.6 per cent); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (down 8.7 per cent); furniture and fixtures (down 3.3 per cent); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (down 1.6 per cent); Chinese drugs and herbs (down 6.1 per cent); and optical shops (down 3.8 per cent).

The only categories to improve year on year in December were groceries: Sales of commodities in supermarkets increased by 3.6 per cent and of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco by 1.1 per cent.

On a full year basis, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks and valuable gifts decreased by 15.6 per cent. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (down 7.2 per cent); commodities in department stores (down 4.1 per cent); medicines and cosmetics (down 1.9 per cent); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (down 4.1 per cent); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (down 2.6 per cent); furniture and fixtures (down 1.8 per cent); Chinese drugs and herbs (down 5.5 per cent); and optical shops (down 3.6 per cent).


Supermarkets sales rose 1.3 per cent; food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco rose 5.9 per cent; and electrical goods and photographic equipment by 3 per cent.

The C&SD says the retail sales statistics measure the sales receipts in respect of goods sold by local retail establishments and are primarily intended for gauging the short-term business performance of the local retail sector. They cover consumer spending on goods but not on services (such as those on housing, catering, medical care and health services, transport and communication, financial services, education and entertainment) which account for about 50 per cent of the overall consumer spending. Moreover, they include spending on goods in Hong Kong by visitors but exclude spending outside Hong Kong by Hong Kong residents. Hence they should not be regarded as indicators for measuring overall consumer spending.

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