Large retailers in Hong Kong have raised prices for some Japanese camera brands, claiming reduced stock since the March 11 disaster - at a time when at least one industry expert says they should be falling.
A Canon 60D digital single-lens reflex camera that cost HK$9,788 before the disaster is being offered at three big chain stores in Times Square for HK$10,980.
A staff member at one store who wanted to remain anonymous said prices increased slightly four or five days after the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan's northeastern coast. 'By March 16, it still wasn't a big increase - 3 or 4 per cent - but another four days later, it went to the [manufacturer's] suggested retail price,' he said.
Retailers rarely sell products at the suggested price because of competition, but the same model was selling at Broadway, Chung Yuen and Fortress for HK$10,980.
A spokesman for Fortress was reticent about motives for the increase. 'In the short term, we don't see any issue with stock because we have sufficient stock,' he said. 'In the long term, we are still liaising with the suppliers to see how the supply will go. 'For most electronic goods, it should be OK, and only a few Japanese camera brands will be affected.'
Another retailer slashed prices for some Japanese camera brands and raised other prices marginally.
'Before the earthquake, we kept a lot of stock so we only raised prices 1 or 2 per cent,' said Sunlite Computronics owner James Miu, who cut prices by more than HK$1,000 during a digital camera sale last week.
'But I have heard that some stores have raised their prices over the suggested retail price. When everyone has stock, they drop their prices to sell it and never follow suggested prices. But now, because there is not enough stock, they have raised prices to the suggested levels.'
Shawn DuBravac, the United States Consumer Electronics Association's chief economist and head of research, said prices should be dropping because of the depreciation of the yen and lower demand from Japanese consumers.
'Certain retailers will say they have to raise their prices, but do they really have to?' he said. 'Are they raising their prices because they can take advantage of an opportunity?'
DuBravac, who is in town this week for an electronics trade show, said the supply chain had an inventory that could last up to 60 days and could increase production elsewhere.
'That's what happened immediately following the disaster,' he said. 'Factories outside the impacted area increased production.'
Japan, which produces 15 to 20 per cent of all consumer electronics, was also a big consumer of its own goods, DuBravac said.
'That will help keep prices down because they are rebuilding homes, not buying camera lenses.'