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Hongkongers return to stores – but sales still well down over two years

Hong Kong retail sales rebounded by a hefty 20 per cent in March – but for the first quarter they remain well behind the same period in 2019. 

According to the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD), Hong Kong retail sales from January to March are running 7.2 per cent ahead of the same period last year, but 32.5 per cent behind a year earlier. 

The strong March figure was a reflection of a low base from March last year when Covid-19 first broke out and the territory was still reeling from protest activities. 

“Looking ahead, while local consumption sentiment saw some improvement following the gradual relaxation of social distancing measures since mid-February, the near-term outlook for the retail trade is still challenging as inbound tourism remains in the doldrums,” said a government spokesperson. 

“To attain a stronger revival of the retail trade and a broader-based economic recovery, it is essential for the community to work together to keep the epidemic under control and to actively participate in the Covid-19 vaccination program.”

Local online retailing accounted for 7.7 per cent of the overall retail market in March, provisionally estimated at HK$2.1 billion, and representing a 43-per-cent year-on-year increase. For the first quarter of this year, C&SD estimated online retail sales increased by 62.6 per cent by value.

By sector, it was supermarket sales that provided the biggest surprise, falling by 16.1 per cent, most likely due to relaxed restrictions on dining out in March. 

Sales of jewellery, watches and clocks rose by 81 per cent, of apparel by 77.4 per cent, of footwear and accessories by 64.1 per cent, of electrical goods and other consumer durable goods by 44.8 per cent, of Chinese drugs and herbs by 27.7 per cent, by optical shops down 29.1 per cent, and of medicines and cosmetics by 18 per cent. 

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