Hong Kong retail sales crashed 23 per cent in August as extradition-bill protests saw stores shuttered and visitors staying away.
August’s decline was the worst month on record, even worse than September 1998 when the Asian Financial Crisis hit.
According to the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) the value of retail sales was provisionally estimated at HKD29.4 billion, down 23 per cent year on year, following a revised 11.5 per cent decline in July. After netting out the effect of price changes, retail sales in August fell by an estimated 25.3 per cent.
“Apart from the weak consumer sentiment amid subdued economic conditions, the plunge in August mainly reflected the severe disruptions to inbound tourism and consumption-related activities caused by the local social incidents,” said a government spokesperson.
“Retail sales will likely remain in the doldrums in the near term, as the worsened economic outlook and local protests involving violence continue to weigh on consumer sentiment and inbound tourism.”
For the first eight months of this year, sales are down by 6 per cent.
Worst hit in August, understandably, was the tourist-reliant luxury goods sector, with sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts down a massive 47.4 per cent – proving widely discussed anecdotes of retailers suffering a 50 per cent decline in sales during the month.
Sales by department stores plunged 29.9 per cent and of cosmetics by 30 per cent. Apparel sales were down by 33.4 per cent and both by optical shops and of footwear and accessories by 26 per cent. Sales of Chinese drugs and herbs fell 25.5 per cent.
Electrical goods sales fell by 15.4 per cent, and miscellaneous consumer goods by 20.1 per cent.
However, categories shopped mainly by local residents were significantly less affected: sales of food, liquor and tobacco were down by just 0.3 per cent, books, newspapers and stationery by 2.5 per cent and furniture and homewares by 7.4 per cent. Supermarket sales were up by 1.9 per cent and fuels by 0.4 per cent.
August marked the third consecutive month of disruption due to protest action. Sales for the three months combined fell by an estimated 12.4 per cent quarter on quarter.