Best Christmas spending in a decade

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong people are splurging in the best Christmas shopping season in a decade, with retail turnover expected to exceed HK$20 billion as consumers spend big on meals, expensive gifts and trips abroad.

Causeway Bay, dubbed the shopper's paradise of shoppers' paradises, was packed last night with cheery and weary people weighed down with bags, and long lines in front of department store cashiers - and at taxi stands.

The Retail Management Association predicts a 7 per cent increase in shopping, which would mean turnover of HK$20.6 billion - slightly more than the HK$20.2 billion recorded in 1997 before the long economic downturn.

For Christmas dining, top hotels reported strong early bookings for expensive meals. The Mandarin Oriental said it had seen exceptional demand this year, while The Peninsula said most of its restaurants were already fully booked.

The hotels, like food and beverage outlets, also said there had been a big demand for their Christmas hampers.

Caroline Chow, spokeswoman for Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments, which has 13 restaurants in the city's premier entertainment district, said many of its outlets were booked out by investment banks for private parties.

'As we all know, investment banks have done very well this year, with many of them getting good bonuses and commissions. For the parties, they all order the finest wines and dishes,' she said.

The Hang Seng Index closed at 19,320.52 on the last trading day before Christmas yesterday, up almost 30 per cent this year.

Retail Management Association chairman Bankee Kwan Pak-hoo said people were more willing to spend this year, with the increase mainly reflected in food, beverage and cosmetics purchases.

Hong Thai Travel Services' general manager Susanna Lau Mei-sze said most Christmas package tours were fully booked.

'This is a very good year,' she said. 'Instead of looking for budget tours, asking for the cheapest package, people look for the luxury ones where they can have a real treat.' Southeast Asian destinations, Taiwan, Japan and Korea were the most popular, Ms Lau said.

'Even destinations such as Europe and Australia are doing very well,' she said.

Wine consultant Kat Lee of Berry Bros & Rudd, Hong Kong, said the wine merchant's sales had tripled. 'And people are buying luxury ones without blinking an eye. A customer has just paid us more than HK$100,000 simply for a few bottles of nice red wine,' Ms Lee said, adding that the cheapest bottle cost HK$9,000.