Shoppers empty shelves in Lunar New Year buying frenzy

Locals and mainlanders alike scramble to do their festive shopping before stores sell out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:08am

Local shoppers are making an effort to buy their Lunar New Year goodies earlier this year even as enthusiastic mainlanders once more swamp the city, scrambling to clear the shelves.

Long queues were observed outside several PrizeMart stores - a chain known for its bargain prices - throughout the week, with streams of mainland shoppers carting away boxes of chocolates, candies and other snacks by the dozens.

"It's cheaper to buy in Hong Kong as the currency is weak. It's like having a 30 per cent discount on every item," a visitor from Guangzhou said. "Goods we buy here in Hong Kong are also of a better quality, so they're better [than goods bought on the mainland] to give away as gifts."

The woman said her family had bought 20 boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates and five tins of Kjeldsens butter cookies from a PrizeMart store in Mong Kok.

"You can see how mainlanders are emptying the shelves," a local housewife said. "I fear that there may be a shortage later, or the prices will rise when it gets closer to the Lunar New Year."

Many popular brands of infant formula, one of the priorities on mainlanders' shopping lists, are again in short supply this year.

In Mong Kok, all 12 stores the South China Morning Post visited yesterday had run out of stock on infant formula by Mead Johnson and Cow Gate.

The stores - which included dispensaries, Watsons, Wellcome and Parknshop supermarkets - had also run out of a handful of overseas brands. Only two dispensaries said they had a few tins of Friso milk powder left, but were charging HK$448 each - almost double the manufacturer's suggested selling price of HK$283.

One Watsons staff member said the formula brands were sold out almost immediately after they were put on the shelves. "I suggest you switch to another brand," she told a customer.

The short supply comes despite manufacturers of dairy products saying they had already increased supply in anticipation of the Lunar New Year surge in sales. Friso said it doubled its milk powder supply this month compared with the same time last year.

And the shortage was not confined to Mong Kok. Several local mothers have expressed their frustration on internet forum Baby Kingdom.

One upset mother wrote: "I've checked a few areas near my home, but I still can't [get my hands on] the brands my baby is drinking now. What can I do?"

Friso and Mead Johnson said local mothers could sign up for their membership programme to get a stable supply of infant formula with free delivery.

Friso also encouraged all its retail partners to sell its products at their recommended prices.