Stores suffer slowest month of 2013

September saw worst year-on-year retail sales growth, but confidence builds for fourth quarter

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 3:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 3:28am

Citywide retail sales growth for September was the slowest this year, increasing just 5.1 per cent over the same month last year, according to new figures from the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA).

However, HKRMA chairwoman Caroline Mak Sui-king assuaged fears of a declining trend in sales and said the slowdown was from a higher base last year and did not signal a significant slowing in consumption.

The provisional value of retail sales for the month was estimated at HK$35.8 billion.

Mak said she believed it was possible that growth would return to double digits for the fourth quarter and that sales for October were encouraging.

"October is better than September, going from what the retailers are saying. So we don't need to be that pessimistic. If I were to predict, I think growth would go back to double digits," she said.

"I think 10 to 12 per cent is doable. I'm not that negative about the Christmas season, but I don't think sales will rise by 20 per cent as they did in 2011."

As always, weather would dictate much of retailers' performance, she added.

"This week is such nice and dry weather so I'm sure sales will be really good," Mak said.

"But what you need to be careful of is if it's still warm weather during mid-November - that will mean real trouble for retailers because that is when they will start sales of their winter clothes. So before you even buy your winter clothes, they're on sale. If that happens, that will be a big impact on apparel and footwear."

For the first nine months of the year, retail sales increased by 12.5 per cent in value and 11.9 per cent in volume over a year earlier.

Department stores enjoyed the best sales, up 21.5 per cent from the year before, while sales of jewellery, watches and valuable gifts gained 8.7 per cent, and clothing apparel grew 3.1 per cent.

Furniture and fixtures were less in demand, suffering a 10.2 per cent decrease in sales due to an uncertain property market. This retreat was followed by a 6.1 per cent decline in sales of motor vehicles and parts, while sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco dropped 3.3 per cent.

The new ban on tour guides taking commissions from stores has put pressure on some retailers, but overall Mak said it would not be too much of an issue.

"Just because before you force shoppers to physically be present there in a shop doesn't mean they buy. They're unhappy and they just stand there. If you get rid of these groups and instead get people who want to come to Hong Kong to shop, they will buy," she said.