Upbeat stallholders at New Year fair pray for the rain to stay away

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 February, 2008, 12:00am

Stock markets may wobble, prices may rise and flowers may fail to blossom, but what stall managers at the Lunar New Year fair fear most is rain.

Despite anxieties over the stock market, many entrepreneurs at the fair said they were confident the public would not hold back from spending during the festive season. Even the cold is unlikely to keep people away, many stall managers say, but if it rains the crowds are likely to thin.

Alan Chui Ka-lun, who is managing a stall in Victoria Park for the first time with fellow Chinese University students, said most stalls would target teenagers, who were 'unlikely to be too affected by the stock markets and will still want to spend. But they have to be here in the first place to spend. We worry most about rain'.

The Observatory forecasts rain for today, Monday and Tuesday.

Tam Chun, the manager of four flower stalls at Lunar New Year fairs for the past 35 years, was also optimistic and hoped to sell 600 to 700 large pots of peach blossoms. He conceded the were not in bloom because of the cold. 'But customers know how to care for them once they take them home. There's no point in them blossoming here,' he said.

Because of the appreciation of the yuan, prices for many wet goods have risen by about 10 per cent, but Mr Tam was confident customers would find this acceptable.

The cold weather may help food stalls, which suffered from the heat last year, if it boosts appetites.

But Leo Cheng Man-or said he was not sure of a healthy profit. Food prices had increased by almost 50 per cent, but he had increased prices by just over 10 per cent, he said.

Chinese University's Alan Chui said he hoped his group's inflatable biceps would prove a hit. The idea came from the fact 'little rat' in Cantonese slang signifies the bulge of one's bicep. 'This is the first time we have managed a stall. We haven't ordered much stock (1,000 pieces). The most important thing is we have fun and gain some experience of managing a business,' he said. He hoped to earn enough to treat 20 friends and fellow students to an expensive meal.

Some 60 Form Four students from Cheung Chuk Shan School designed an inflatable cheese chair they will sell at their stall for HK$38.

The Observatory says the first day of the Year of the Rat, Thursday, will be fine and dry, with temperatures from 10 to 14 degrees Celsius, contrasting with 25.3 on the same day last year. It is expected to remain cold and cloudy over the weekend.