Protests take their toll on Watsons stores

Sales by Watsons stores located in areas affected by ongoing street protests have fallen markedly in both June and July.

The protests have been ongoing since early June, largely confined to the island suburbs of Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay.

“Month-to-date July our sales have fallen by a double-digit [percentage] from the same period last year,” the chain’s MD Diane Cheung said during the launch of a diagnostic service at a Hong Kong store yesterday.  

“That said, last year’s comparison base was relatively high, and given we achieved favourable first-half sales and that we expect openings of new and renovated stores in the second-half, we believe we will fare better than the entire retail market for the full year.”

Cheung said other factors were also impacting on the group’s sales, a reference to the changing demographic of mainland visitors and general economic uncertainty fuelled by the ongoing trade war between the US and China. However, Watsons stores located in the districts where most of the protests have occurred were worst affected.

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association warned of the impact the protests were having on some of its members earlier this month. 

“Large-scale parade activities have caused individual stores to suspend business. Not only are the retail companies under pressure, so is the income of store employees,” the organisation said in a prepared statement.

AS Watson expects to open a net 20 new Watsons stores in Hong Kong by the end of this year, taking its network to 260. Globally the group opens a new store on average every seven hours. 


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