Are Hongkongers really spending HK$25 billion a year on clothes?

Greenpeace survey also finds city residents spend twice as much as Taiwanese

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 8:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 9:12am

With the Year of the Rooster on the horizon, Hongkongers should resist splurging on new clothes for the new year, environmental group Greenpeace said, after its survey found city residents spend twice the amount on clothes that their Taiwanese counterparts do.

An average Hongkonger spends close to HK$10,000 a year on clothing, while Taiwanese only spend half that amount, according to a Greenpeace survey of 2,000 people in December.

Based on the figure, the group assumed a Hongkonger spends on average HK$800 per month on clothes. It then calculated the entire city could be spending up to HK$25 billion a year kitting out their new wardrobe.

“We should take this opportunity in the new year to clear out our old things, not make room for new clothes,” Greenpeace campaigner Bonnie Tang Man-lam said. “We should adopt a more sustainable lifestyle of buying only what is necessary.”

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According to Chinese tradition, the third-to-last day of the lunar year – this year, January 25 – is dedicated to spring cleaning. It is also customary in the city and on the mainland to buy new clothes to wear, especially red in colour, for the first day of Lunar New Year, which this year falls on January 28.

The survey found that 40 per cent of the 1,000 polled Hongkongers could only resist the urge to shop for less than a week. In Taiwan, 22 per cent said they were unable to hold back for that long.

We should adopt a more sustainable lifestyle of buying only what is necessary
Bonnie Tang, Greenpeace

While the survey did not touch on the reasons why Hongkongers were bigger spenders than their Taiwanese counterparts, Tang said the city’s values and habits centred on consumerism.

“People often can’t resist sales tactics that brands use, such as buy-one, get-one-free promotions or free shipping,” she said, adding that friends and social media also played a major role in encouraging impulse purchases.

Some 60 per cent of those polled in Hong Kong said the feelings of satisfaction from shopping only lasted a day, creating a cycle of splurging on sales, only momentary control and then shopping again to fill a void, Tang said.

Some 110,000 tonnes of textile waste were sent to landfills in 2015, official figures showed, and only 4 per cent of such waste was recycled.

Tang added that curbing consumer spending was the only way to address the root problem of waste as landfills in the city continued to expand.

Part-time professional organiser Orange Tam, who has a side job reorganising closets and homes in Hong Kong, said most of her clients only bought new clothes because they couldn’t find it in their wardrobe.

“The crucial thing is that people need to have the mindset of buying only what they need,” she said. “That means they need learn to part with what they have.”

Tam’s advice for spring cleaning before the Lunar New Year: “The first step – clean out your entire wardrobe and put them in a pile. Donate and recycle clothes that you don’t wear regularly. When reorganising, don’t place shirts on top of each other. Roll them and place them side by side so you can see what you have in one glance. And make them easily accessible.”