March Hong Kong retail sales slumped by 42 per cent year on year as the Covid-19 pandemic forced Mainland Chinese shoppers to stay at home.
According to The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) retail sales reached just HK$23 billion (US$2.97 billion) during the month.
March’s fall was slightly less than the 44 per cent decline of February. The revised combined January-February decline was 31.8 per cent year on year, (a comparison which evens out any influence of the change in timing of the Lunar New Year holiday season from year to year).
A government spokesman said the drop in March Hong Kong retail sales was a result of government measures to restrict the transmission of the virus, which brought inbound tourism to a standstill and “seriously disrupted local consumption-related activities”.
For the March quarter, Hong Kong retail sales fell by 36.9 per cent year-on-year – the single largest quarterly decline on record.
“The business environment for the retail trade will remain very difficult in the near term amid the deep economic recession and sharp deterioration in the labour market,” the spokesman said.
In March, a 21.2-per-cent decline in sales of food, liquor and tobacco had the greatest impact on the overall figure, with a 42.7-per-cent fall in sales through department stores having the next greatest effect.
Sales of jewellery, watches and luxury goods plunged by 75.2 per cent, but in the bigger picture this was less of a contribution to the bottom line than other categories, including electrical goods down by 39.6 per cent and consumer goods not otherwise categorised, down by 29.1 per cent.
Sales of medicines and cosmetics fell by 63.8 per cent, apparel by 67.2 per cent and furniture and homewares by 14.4 per cent.
Books, newspapers and stationery dropped 48.4 per cent, Chinese drugs and herbs by 51.7 per cent, footwear and accessories by 60.6 per cent, and sales through optical shops fell 46.6 per cent.
The only category to post growth was supermarkets, where sales surged 16.1 per cent.