Bargain hunters rush to Hong Kong, but Christmas shopping frenzy fizzles out

Jump of 18pc in mainland visitor arrivals not matched by rise in spending

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 December, 2016, 10:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 3:15pm

Bargain-hunting tourists flocked to the city over the Christmas period as mainland visitor numbers jumped 18 per cent year on year during the four-day holiday.

But despite the overall rise, tourists spent far less than a few years ago.

From December 23 to 26 there was a 13.8 per cent rise in overall visitors, a stark contrast to the 5.4 per cent decline in the first 11 months of the year, according to statistics from the Immigration Department. The number of overseas tourists increased 2.5 per cent during the holiday.

Despite the festive rush retailers said December sales were down on last year, as mainland shoppers were spending less on big-ticket items.

On December 24 and 25, visitors queued for hours outside the Sogo store and Times Square in Causeway Bay and Citygate Outlets in Tung Chung as discounts of up to 80 per cent were available.

But the shopping boom quickly cooled over the following two days, as mainland visitors returned home and went back to work.

Lau Hak-bun, director for Greater China at Chow Sang Sang, one of Hong Kong’s biggest jewellery chains, said sales for the festive season were down more than 10 per cent compared with last year.

Mainland visitors returning, but with tighter budgets

“People have already bought many valuable jewellery items over the past few years,” said Lau, adding that items priced below HK$10,000 were more popular with the new batch of mainland visitors.

Alan Ng, a salesman at a branch of Prince Jewellery and Watch in Causeway Bay, said there had been a clear decline in numbers of customers since Monday.

“It seems the sales have been on the slide in the last two or three Christmas holidays,” he said.

It seems the sales have been on the slide in the last two or three Christmas holidays
Alan Ng, Prince Jewellery and Watch

However, gold jewellery appeared to be popular with mainland shoppers due to global economic uncertainty, a factor which often sees a move towards gold.

Tourism sector lawmaker Yiu Si-wing said the recent depreciation of the Chinese yuan had prompted mainland visitors to be more careful with their cash.

“They are now spending their own money. Their mindset has totally changed from the days when luxuries were bought for gift-giving,” he said.

Yiu said the robust Christmas visitor figures were in line with the upward trend observed since October, which he attributed in part to hotels offering cheaper deals.

He said hotel rates had declined by more than 30 per cent from their peak in 2014, which had encouraged tourists to visit the city.