Global year-end sales sluggish
Expect local exports to grow by 4pc next year, trade official predicts
Year-end sales globally were roughly the same as last year, with the mainland and other emerging markets doing better than the US, Europe and Japan.
Such sales have become a valuable pointer to retail business patterns in the year ahead, according to Daniel Poon, principal economist of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).
Poon forecast Hong Kong's exports would grow 4 per cent next year, boosted by growing demand in emerging markets and the mainland.
"Exports of electronic goods and parts will do well. It has already been quite strong in the fourth quarter this year," he said.
Poon said he was optimistic about the purchasing power of mainland tourists in Hong Kong. "The Chinese economy is on the mend and is bottoming out. As wages on the mainland increase, people's buying power will grow too."
Retail sales on the mainland during the first 11 months of this year were 14.2 per cent higher than a year ago as the government introduced measures to stimulate consumption. In November, retail sales grew by 14.9 per cent.
But Wang Xianqing, a professor specialising in retail and distribution at Guangdong University of Business Studies, said the market overall was weak this year and that November was an aberration.
"Usually the retail sector picks up at the end of the year as a result of the National Day and other holidays. I see the current downturn cycle as a long one and it will take three years to climb back. The retail sector on the mainland will perhaps recover in the latter half of 2014," Wang said.
According to Wang, mainland tourists may also begin to cool on buying luxury items during their visits to Hong Kong.
"The impact (of waning mainlander interest) on jewellery sales has already been observed this year. Also, the price of luxury products is gradually going down on the mainland and more and more consumers will buy such items at home."
HKTDC data shows US retail sales grew 3 per cent amid so-called fiscal cliff concerns during the year-end season on a year-on-year basis. They rose 5 per cent during the same period last year.
Poon expects US retail sales to grow modestly next year amid continuing monetary easing though fiscal concerns will linger.
Consumer electronics, including smartphones and tablets, have been topping year-end shopping lists worldwide.