Positive start to the year for Hong Kong retail sales

Hong Kong retail sales rose 4.1 per cent in January, compared to last year.

While that marked a positive trend to kick off the new year, it was well short of the revised 5.8 per cent growth of December, most likely explained by the timing of Lunar New Year.

The Census and Statistics Department provisionally estimated the value retail sales in January at $44.9 billion. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the provisional estimate of volume was a 2.2 per cent ahead year on year, while the revised estimate of December’s volume was up 4.3 per cent.

The C&SD says retail sales tend to show greater volatility in the first two months of the year due to the timing of the Lunar New Year. “Local consumer spending normally attains a seasonal high before the festival. As the Lunar New Year fell on February 16 this year but on January 28 last year, the year-on-year comparison of the figures for January 2018 with those for January 2017 might have been affected by this factor to a certain extent.”

Accordingly, the real measure of growth in retail sales can only be determined by comparing combined January-february figures for both years in a month’s time, when the February data is released.

However, Inside Retail Hong Kong has received anecdotal feedback that retail spending was strong during February. There was also a double-digit increase in visitor numbers from the mainland during the holiday week.

A government spokesman said that, after taking into account the Lunar New Year timing, the sales figures suggested consumer sentiment was “rather robust” entering 2018.

Predictably, the jewellery and watch sector drove January’s growth, up 10.4 per cent year on year.

Apparel sales rose 3.3 per cent in value, cosmetics by 12.1 per cent and electrical goods by 21.1 per cent. Those, in order, are the four largest categories contributing to the total retail market.

Unsurprisingly, given the Lunar New Year timing effect, supermarket sales slumped 13.3 per cent. Department store sales were down 4.6 per cent and food and alcoholic drinks fell 4.6 per cent.


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