Visitors can expect to dig deeper when shopping at the coming Lunar New Year fairs after bidders paid 85.5 per cent more to secure their stalls at auctions this year, delivering the government HK$21.3 million.
Stall operators said they could not avoid increasing prices given that they had to pay a lot more than in the past to secure their stalls at the 14 fair venues, which include Victoria Park and Fa Hui Park.
Dry goods stalls were exceptionally popular this year, with revenue doubling from HK$6.1 million last year to HK$12.2 million.
Strong demand for wet goods stalls and fast-food stalls pushed revenue up 70.7 per cent and 43.6 per cent respectively, to HK$7.3 million and HK$1.5 million. The first day of auctions for fair stalls saw a bidder pay the highest price in a decade - HK$350,000 for a fast-food stall at Victoria Park to sell fishballs.
More than 300 stalls were left unlet after the first round of auctions for last year's fairs. Only a tenth - 31 stalls at Morse Park and Cheung Sha Wan Playground - have been left out in the cold this year.
Justin Cheng Cham-wang from Salesian English School said his team would sell its dolls for HK$60 compared to last year's HK$50.
Last year his seniors spent HK$10,300 for a dry goods stall. This year the school spent HK$20,000.
'Prices will increase a little bit, but because of Valentine's Day, we will offer discounts if people buy a pair of goods,' he said.
Students from QualiEd College earned HK$10,000 last year, a return of 8 per cent. Chief school affairs master Ryan Yan Pat-to said the team did not have high hopes this time - it would be nice just to break even.
'It's much more difficult for students to run their business this year,' said the teacher, whose school has run stalls at Lunar New Year fairs for five years. 'We'll have to reduce production costs and aim at cheaper goods this year.' A 5-10 per cent increase in price was likely, he said.
Others groups said they were planning to adopt different strategies and aimed to keep prices in line with last year.
New Method College liberal studies teacher Tony Chan Kwok-kei said pupils would stock more expensive goods, such as a HK$100 doll. 'The market trend looked positive during Christmas,' he said.
On the other hand, pupils would also introduce cheaper hand-made goods to target a wider group.
Eric Chan Ho-cheung, director of supplier Heartwork International, predicted flowery and romantic goods would flood the fair, to embrace Valentine's Day.
Many enthusiastic bidders at the auctions were adults who had not run stalls at fairs before. Apart from paying more for stalls, they were also spending more capital on designing the goods. Thirty per cent more customers were having their products custom made, Chan said.
'People earned HK$30,000 to up to HK$60,000 after paying a rent of HK$10,000 last year,' he said. 'At that time the economy was, bad but people still made a lot of profit. This year the economy is getting better and people are more daring with their investments.'
As stall operators were getting in a lot of stock, it was likely they would keep prices low so as to sell as much as possible, he predicted.
The auction results demonstrated small investors' confidence in the market, City University department of management sciences associate professor Geoffrey Tso Kwok-fai said. Consumer confidence had been rising over the past two quarters, he said. Sellers would try to charge more at the beginning of the fairs and may lower prices towards the end, he said.
Back in business
A year-on-year comparison of revenue raised at Lunar New Year stall auctions (HK$)
Dry goods stalls
Wet goods stalls
Source: FOOD AND ENVIRONMENTAL HYGIENE DEPARTMENT