Hong Kong retail sales fell by 4.5 per cent in April, contributing to a 2 per cent decrease in year to date.
Worse, the Census and Statistics Department said that after netting out the effect of price changes year on year, Hong Kong retail sales fell 5 per cent year on year, following a 0.8 per cent fall in March and contributing to a 2.3 per cent decline year to date.
“The larger year-on-year decrease recorded in April reflected the still-cautious consumption sentiment amid external uncertainties, but was also partly due to the late arrival of the Labour Day holidays in the Mainland (which fell in early May this year but straddled between April and May last year), which has led to a notable deceleration in the growth rate of visitor arrivals,” a government spokesman said, commenting on the data.
He said that in the near term, consumption sentiment will continue to be affected by various external uncertainties, though the sustained expansion in inbound tourism and the largely stable local labour market should provide support to retail sales business. In other words: it may be too soon to start panicking.
Predictably, the jewellery, watches and luxury goods sector performed the worst, sales down 11.4 per cent in April. Apparel, the second greatest contributor to the figures, slipped by a more modest 2.2 per cent, with cosmetics down 6 per cent, department-store sales down 4.3 per cent and electrical goods by 13.7 per cent. Sales of footwear and accessories fell 5.4 per cent, furniture by 0.4 per cent; books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 7.5 per cent; Chinese drugs and herbs by 5.7 per cent, and optical shops by 7.8 per cent.
On the positive side, supermarket sales rose by 1.1 per cent; food, alcohol and tobacco by 0.8 per cent and fuels by 3.3 per cent.