Hong Kong retail sales suffer worst monthly drop ever on continuing unrest

04, Oct. 2019

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HONG KONG, NNA – Hong Kong retail sales suffered the steepest monthly fall ever in August, on a year-on-year basis, due to unrest since June including violence between protesters and police in the Chinese territory.

Total retail sales in August plunged 23 percent from the same month a year earlier to 29.4 billion Hong Kong dollars ($3.7 billion). That fall extends an 11.5 percent year-on-year decrease in July, provisional data released by the government showed Wednesday.

The August decline was “even worse than one recorded in September 1998 during the Asian Financial Crisis,” a spokesman for Census and Statistics Department said in a statement.

Sales of jewelry, watches, clocks and valuable gifts plummeted 47.4 percent year on year to HK$3.93 billion, largely affected by a decline in mainland Chinese travelers, the data showed. Sales of cosmetics and clothing declined around 30 percent, the data showed.

The number of visitors from mainland China, which accounts for around 75 percent of Hong Kong’s total, reached 2,782,897 in August this year, down 42.3 percent from August 2018, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

“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,” the spokesman said.

The September sales decline is likely to less than that of August due to a relatively low base from September 2018, Annie Yau Tse, chairwoman of the retail industry trade group Hong Kong Retail Management Association, told NNA in a phone interview Wednesday.

Corporate members of the association predict October sales will also be sluggish, the chairwoman added.