Jewellers are expecting lacklustre sales during the May Day break as the "gold rush" of last year is no more, while other retailers remain optimistic that mainland visitors will continue to spend big in the city.
Gold businesses are particularly downbeat, despite an Immigration Department forecast that Hong Kong will welcome 4.89 million visitors from May 1 to 6, a tenth more than during the same period last year.
Mainland shoppers' craving for luxury goods has declined, although demand for cosmetics and daily necessities remains high, Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said.
Yesterday, at the start of the three-day May Day holiday for mainlanders, jewellery stores reported fewer patrons than last year.
Luk Fook Group chief executive William Wong Wai-sheung was worried that sales turnover would be halved.
"It's hard to compare this year's [sales performance] with that of last year," Wong said. "It was the gold rush last year. Now the market has stabilised."
The outlook was brighter at Wtc More, which launched cosmetics-themed promotions to cash in on the break. The management of the Causeway Bay shopping centre estimated HK$7,000 in spending per person and a turnover of HK$9 million in the six days to Tuesday.
The mall is expected to receive 670,000 shoppers, 16 per cent more than last year, said Fiona Chung, general manager of Sun Hung Kai Real Estate Agency.
Tung estimated about 900 inbound tours would be in town during the three days, compared to 810 last year.
In a report last month, the World Gold Council said 2014 was likely to be a year of consolidation for China's gold market.
Last year, the opening price of 99 tael gold at the Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange Society fell 15 per cent to HK$12,380 per tael from April 9 to 16.
"The sudden price drop in 2013 meant some Chinese consumers brought forward jewellery and gold bar purchases, which may limit growth in demand in 2014," the council says.
The price of 99 tael gold opened at HK$11,990 on Wednesday, up from HK$11,880 at the beginning of last month.
At a Prada store in Tsim Sha Tsui, Ren Tao of Shenzhen was queueing with his girlfriend.
The third-time visitor to Hong Kong said he was in the city for only one day - but planned to splash out HK$40,000 on a handbag, cellphone and computer. "Hong Kong is a good place for shopping, especially since the exchange rate between the yuan and the Hong Kong dollar remains good," Ren said.
Xu Yanqiu and her family, also from the mainland, had set aside at least HK$5,000 for clothing, transport and accommodation for their four-day stay.