Rosier economic times inspire shoppers to do what they do best

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 December, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 December, 2003, 12:00am

The latest survey on consumers' spending habits has confirmed Hong Kong people are increasingly prepared to spend again, thanks to the continuing economic recovery.

For the first time in a year, more people - 21 per cent - said their spending would increase than the number who said they would spend less - 15 per cent. The other two-thirds expected to spend about the same in this quarter as in the previous three months, according to a survey by the Hong Kong Retail Management Association and Synovate.

For the quarterly survey, conducted last month and released yesterday, 1,000 people were interviewed about what they spent their money on and their expected spending from December to February.

Clothing and footwear showed the greatest improvement in terms of people's intention to spend. The luxury goods sector remains the hardest hit, with only 2 per cent saying they would spend more on that category.

Consumers were also asked what they had been spending their money on since August. Groceries accounted for 20 per cent, followed by dining and entertainment (19 per cent), rent and accommodation (15 per cent) and shopping for non-grocery items (15 per cent).

The survey confirmed sentiment that the economy has improved since May when, at the height of the Sars crisis, 44 per cent believed things would get worse.

In August, only 11 per cent were negative about economic prospects, and the figure rose marginally to 12 per cent in the latest survey.

Commenting on the results, Anita Bagaman, executive director of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, said consumer spending was directly proportional to the performance of the economy, which had seen gradual improvement over the past few months, in part because of the impact of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement signed with the mainland in June.

'The economic environment and employment situation have a direct impact on people's spending,' Ms Bagaman said.

Charles Li Kui-wai, associate professor of the department of economics and finance at City University, said spending on footwear and clothing was set to rise the most because consumers had refrained from spending much on these goods over the past two years because of the poor economy.