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Hong Kong retail sales plunge 44 per cent in February

February saw a catastrophic collapse in Hong Kong retail sales, which slumped a massive 44 per cent year on year, the greatest fall since records were first taken.

The unprecedented collapse followed a 21.5-per-cent decline in January and a 19.4-per-cent fall in December.

For the first two months of this year, Hong Kong retail sales fell 31.8 per cent.

The collapse in sales followed the effective lockdown of Mainland China for the last week of January and all of February, and came as Hong Kong tightened travel into the territory worldwide following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

A government spokesman confirmed the fall mainly reflected the heavy blow to tourism- and consumption-related activities dealt by the pandemic, although a distortion from the timing of Lunar New Year also contributed.

“The business environment of retail trade will remain extremely austere in the near term, as the Covid-19 pandemic has brought inbound tourism to a standstill and severely dented local consumption demand,” the spokesman said.

Figures released today by the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) provisionally estimated the value of Hong Kong retail sales in February, at $22.7 billion (US$2.9 billion).

After netting out the effect of inflation, total retail sales fell by 46.7 per cent, following a 23.1-per-cent fall in January. For the first two months of the year, the inflation-adjusted decline was 33.9 per cent.

While sales of jewellery and luxury goods fell by 58.6 per cent in January and February combined, it was a surprising 9.3-per-cent slump in the sale of food, alcohol and tobacco which caused the greatest impact on the overall figures, according to the C&SD.

Sales of miscellaneous consumer goods fell by 21.9 per cent; of electrical goods and other consumer durables by 25.1 per cent; and of medicines and cosmetics by 42.7 per cent.

Department-store sales slumped 41.4 per cent, apparel sales by 49.9 per cent; footwear and accessories by 43.1 per cent; furniture and fixtures by 19.6 per cent; Chinese drugs and herbs by 23.7 per cent; books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 35 per cent; and optical shop turnover slumped 28.6 per cent.

The only two categories showing growth were supermarkets, which boosted sales by 11.1 per cent, during the first two months of the year, and fuels, up by 6.5 per cent.

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