Market boom is mixed blessing for Lunar New Year fair auction

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2007, 12:00am

The surging economy appeared to have a two-pronged effect on yesterday's auction of stalls for the Lunar New Year fair - the stalls were more expensive but there were fewer bidders. The reason, according to one vendor, was that people were making too much money on the stock market to be bothered with joining the fair.

While the most expensive stall for the Victoria Park event went for HK$390,000, about 44 per cent more than last year, the government took back 20 unwanted stalls, something winning bidders said they had not seen in years.

Bidding for the top-priced stall, a fast-food booth, started at HK$191,820 and Yip Siu-wah, owner of a Mong Kok snack bar, ended up paying almost twice that. Mr Yip, who plans to sell traditional snacks, said he had never done business at the Lunar New Year fair before and winning the bid was 'like a wish come true'.

Yeung Siu-lung, known as the 'Orchid King', successfully bid for 14 stalls to sell his flowers. 'I got 16 stalls last time,' he said. 'A lot of people didn't do well last time, but some people did well in stocks this year, so they're not coming.' He said the orchid market had improved this year and he estimated he would sell about 50,000 pots of orchids.

Another flower seller, Lau Hoi-to, known as the 'Peach Flower King' said he won 11 stalls yesterday, also two less than at the previous fair.

Mr Lau said almost 50 people from the flower industry who usually came to the auction - close to 30 of them from the mainland - were absent yesterday. 'A lot of people didn't do well last time - the weather was too warm and all the flowers bloomed well before the New Year.'

He said he had not seen 20 stalls fail to attract a bid in 15 years.

With this year also being warm, Mr Lau said it was unclear what effect it would have on his blooms and his business.

'It's too early to say, there are still four months before the fair,' he said. 'What if there are typhoons?

Fast food and wet-goods stalls were on offer in the auction at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium and bidding for dry-goods stalls continues today. There are 180 stalls designated for wet goods, three for fast food and 300 for dry-goods businesses.

The government said about 160 people attended the auction compared with about 600 on the first day last year.