Vendors reclaimed lost territory yesterday as dry-goods stalls for next year's Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park went for lower prices at auction.
Democracy activists who missed out last year on one of the two stalls they have occupied at the fair for decades were delighted to secure both this year.
"I am pleased that we didn't disappoint [our supporters] and secured the two stalls we wanted," vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, said. "We had been the occupants for decades when the late Szeto Wah used to write traditional greetings in Chinese calligraphy for our supporters," Tsoi said, referring to the veteran activist who died in 2011.
The alliance won the No 1 and No 2 stalls near the park's Tin Hau entrance for a combined price of HK$54,700, down from the HK$94,000 they paid for the only stall they could get last year.
Despite the lower prices for some stalls, the two most expensive of eight themed stalls - selling only Lunar New Year food, spring couplets, toys or decorations - drew record-breaking prices of HK$96,000 and HK$101,000.
This mirrored results at Monday's auction of food stalls when the biggest booth went for some HK$540,000 - 80 per cent higher than the price paid for the same stall at this year's fair.
The alliance plans to sell 8GB USB sticks storing materials about the civil rights movement. "USB sticks are easier for people to hide and take into China, compared to banned books with the same materials," Tsoi said.
Also happy was Super Bowl King Traditional Snack, which paid HK$88,300 at the auction for the No 60 stall at the Gloucester Road entrance, HK$46,700 less than the price for this year's fair.
"Last time we could barely break even as we could not raise prices too much," May Chung Mei-wai, manager of the Hong Kong-style snacks business, said.
The group's profits this year will be shared with students from Kiangsu and Chekiang College, who will help sell snacks like red-bean pudding, spring-field pizza and traditional sweets.
"Instead of starting our own business from nowhere, I think my students can learn more from participating in others' business," said accounting, business and financial studies teacher Desmond Lam Kwong-yip.
A new participant in the fair is secondary students' political alliance Scholarism, which secured two stalls for a total of HK$54,800. It will sell products such as T-shirts and tote bags priced from HK$80 to HK$120 each to support its promotional work.
A further 77 dry-goods stalls will be auctioned today.