Mid-Autumn Festival gives Hong Kong retail sales a bigger boost

But less spending on clothes and shoes show that the people are becoming cautious

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2012, 5:43am

Retail sales in Hong Kong rose more than expected in September but there were signs of a slowdown in some segments.

Sales amounted to HK$34.1 billion in September, up 9.4 per cent on the same period last year, driven by the holiday spending during the Mid-Autumn Festival, according to the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department.

It was a 4.6 per cent increase on August. The median forecast of a Bloomberg survey of nine economists was for an increase of 7.6 per cent rise.

Sales had risen just 3.8 per cent in July, the slowest expansion since September 2009.

"The better-than-expected growth figure for September is probably because of an earlier moon festival (this year)," said Caroline Mak from the Hong Kong retail management association.

Mak declined to comment on the rental pressure on retailers but said rents could rise as the three-year contracts signed after the financial crisis in 2009 are about to lapse.

In the first nine months of the year, retail sales rose 10.6 per cent in value and 7.4 per cent in volume from the same period a year earlier, the data showed.

Consumers spent HK$3.9 billion on clothing and footwear in September, down 2 per cent from the previous month, reflecting cautious mass-market spending patterns.

Mak said she expects single-digit growth during the Christmas holidays, driven by substantial gains in the clothing segment as the winter season is expected to be longer this year.

While spending on clothing and footwear declined 2 per cent from August, that of jewellery, watches and clocks dropped 7 per cent to HK$7.1 billion.

Sales of electronic products fell 11 per cent to HK$3 billion while sales at department stores dropped 9 per cent to HK$3.1 billion month on month.

Forrest Chan, a consumer analyst at CCB International Securities, said the spending pattern of mainland tourists has changed as they are splurging less on luxury goods amid the slowing economy.

"The lack of new local attractions also explains the slowing Chinese spending in Hong Kong," said Chan.

In the first half of this year, the luxury market grew a paltry 2.2 per cent, compared with a 32 per cent growth in the same period last year.