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Hong Kong retail sales slump 21 per cent in January

Hong Kong retail sales slumped 21.4 per cent in January, further than the 19.4 per cent of December – but the worst is yet to come.

The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) provisionally estimated Hong Kong retail sales at HK$37.8 billion (US$4.86 billion) but cautioned that the timing of Lunar New Year – on January 25 this year and February 5 last year – may have lessened the statistical impact of January’s data.

“Retail sales continued to record a sharp fall in January, notwithstanding the possible boost from the Lunar New Year, which fell in late January this year but early February last year,” said a government spokesperson.

This hints at a bleak outlook for February’s Hong Kong retail sales, given the advent of the coronavirus which saw inbound tourist numbers drop by 98 per cent in what should have been one of the best trading months of this year.

The coronavirus hit just as the peak Lunar New Year holiday season kicked off, a time when thousands of mainlanders traditionally head across the border to holiday and shop. Sales during the month were already affected by the anti-extradition protests which had been running since June last year.

Sales of jewellery, watches and clocks slumped by 41.6 per cent in January, with medicines and a cosmetics down 32.3 per cent and apparel by 28.9 per cent. Department-store sales were down 27 per cent, books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 25.9 per cent and optical goods by 23.9 per cent, furniture and fittings by 22 per cent, footwear and accessories by 21.6 per cent and electrical goods by 20.4 per cent.

Sales of Chinese drugs and herbs fell by 16.2 per cent and of food, alcohol and tobacco products by 6.8 per cent.

The only categories to buck the downturn were sales in supermarkets, up 10.2 per cent and of fuel, up 12.3 per cent.


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