Parallel trading

Rising yuan boosts mainland visitors's spending power

Bargain-hunting mainlanders expected to take advantage of exchange rate during visits to city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 4:41am

Internet users across the border are enthusiastically discussing plans to shop in Hong Kong as the yuan climbs to a 19-year high.

The exchange rate has risen in the past few days, passing HK$1.25 as the yuan appreciated against the weak US dollar, to which the Hong Kong dollar is pegged. Beijing devalued its currency in late 1993.

Mainlanders are expected to take advantage of the resulting "discounts" in Hong Kong.

On Sina Weibo, the most popular microblogging service on the mainland, users posted messages yesterday saying "Everything over 20 per cent off in Hong Kong" and "Brothers, let's go [shopping]".

Meanwhile, mainlanders already in the city were emboldened to spend more.

"I don't have time to come more often, but I will definitely spend more because things are even cheaper now," a 28-year-old visitor from Shanghai said.

She said she visited twice a year, spending more than HK$10,000 each time on fashion items and also household items like milk powder.

A shop in Causeway Bay said it had yet to see more mainland visitors. "There are as many of them as always," a Fortress salesman said.

In Sheung Shui, where parallel trading is a nuisance to residents, shops said they had raised prices because of higher rents, giving non-locals less incentive to buy goods in bulk to be resold across the border.

About 40 internet users and residents joined a protest initiated on Facebook outside the Sheung Shui MTR station.

Protesters said the government's intensified action against the practice had failed to deter parallel traders.

Some had ways to get round new size and weight restrictions on luggage imposed on the MTR, they said.

"They now pack the goods in small baggages or backpacks," Sheung Shui resident Tam Miu-ying, 59, said. "They make sure every carton they carry falls within the new size limits."

On evenings when there were no police around, about 200 traders flooded the station, as in the past, she said.

Fellow protester Dennis Wong said: "No matter how much work they do in Hong Kong to combat parallel trading, it won't be effective unless customs on both sides of the border work together."