Mainland shoppers make a cookie dash in Hong Kong

Border-hopping shoppers stockpiling on Lunar New Year treats in Hong Kong are making it hard for locals to access goods

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 4:38am

Hundreds of mainlanders, some clutching empty suitcases, lined up outside Jenny Bakery just after sunrise. Their aim was simple: to buy the famous cookies from the outlet in CKE Mall on Nathan Road to take home for this week's holidays.

"We bring the cookies back to give out to friends and relatives as Lunar New Year gifts," said Li Yuanxi from Nanjing , who arrived at 6am to queue with his wife and daughter.

The three-hour wait was no deterrent. For 150 metres, the line sprawled back from the shop, down a staircase exit and two flights of stairs, spilling through a side entrance on to Minden Row.

Jenny Bakery isn't the only shop the mainlanders are sweet on. Tourists have been flocking to dozens of stores selling traditional brands in the run-up to the holidays. The rush is even forcing some Hongkongers to travel out of their way to buy festive treats.

As with infant milk formula, retailers across the border are selling Hong Kong items.

On Taobao, China's most popular auction site, over 50 threads are dedicated to re-selling Jenny Bakery's cookies, while in some mainland shops the cookies resell for as much three times their original value.

"It is a rare opportunity to come to Hong Kong so, for sure, we have to bring a taste of Hong Kong back home," said Kitty Huang Jie, who came from Shanghai with her family of four.

Li, the tourist from Nanjing , said his daughter chanced across the bakery on the internet, where it had good reviews. Li and his family, all first-timers to the city, spent about HK$10,000 on cosmetics, electronic products, and Lunar New Year goods.

But some locals were disappointed as they could not buy any biscuits for themselves.

"If I want to give out the cookies as Chinese New Year gifts, I can't buy them too early as they expire after a month," said Yau Hung-nog, who visited the bakery twice, once in late January and on Tuesday right before it opened at 9am, to buy cookies.

She lives in Tuen Mun and said it was impossible for her to arrive at the bakery early in the morning to queue.

"Now I have to scrap my plan and wait until the holiday ends before coming back to try my luck," Yau said.

Storekeeper Margaret Lee said the bakery had boosted daily cookie production by about 10 per cent to accommodate the extra custom from mainland tourists. She did not think local customers had been left out.

"Our cookies are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. We treat everyone equally," Lee said.

The owners of Duck Shing Ho, a time-honoured eggroll baker in North Point, also said more mainland tourists had been visiting in recent years.

But in December, the management decided to suspend sales to walk-in customers and for the Lunar New Year period will only deliver eggrolls to local customers who have pre- ordered.

"We heard some local customers complain they could not buy our eggrolls because of the large amount of [mainland] tourists," said baker Lau Kar-chun.

The shop resumes its normal retail business next Saturday.

"I can see customers coming over to line up really early next Saturday," said Lau.

Cultural critic Perry Lam Pui-li said "no matter how strong their economy is or how rich they are, Hong Kong products are very attractive to mainland customers as they are the things that mainlanders could not get at home".