Hong Kong may be a special administrative region, but Shenzhen residents see it is a special shopping zone, with a quarter of the Guangdong city's residents crossing the border more than once a month last year, a poll found.
A Shenzhen trade association in conjunction with a local consulting firm surveyed 2,100 people last year, finding that 27 per cent had visited Hong Kong specifically to shop - nearly three times the figure for 2010.
While most mainlanders need to obtain a permit for each entry, Shenzhen residents can come and go with ease under the multiple-entry scheme introduced in 2009.
Among those polled, 25 per cent said they had been to Hong Kong more than once a month last year. Many were highly educated, earning on average more than 10,000 yuan (HK$12,300) a month.
Fifty-five per cent of shoppers said they bought clothes and footwear, while 30 per cent bought cosmetics or simply came for groceries. About 15 per cent bought jewellery, tobacco or liquor, according to the survey cited by the Guangzhou Daily.
Products sold in Hong Kong are generally viewed by mainlanders as more reliable, especially those for infants, and there is greater variety. 'People going to Hong Kong to buy soy sauce has become a hot topic on the internet,' the paper said.
In recent years, mainlanders packing grocery stores or pharmacies with their shopping baskets have become a common sight, both in border areas, such as Sheung Shui in the New Territories, and in retail centres such as Mong Kok.
But this influx has triggered complaints from some local residents, who say Hong Kong's streets have become more crowded, and that the demand from across the border has made supplies of some commodities unstable.
However, tourists from the mainland play a vital role in the growth of the tourism and service sector. An average of 61,551 mainlanders visited Hong Kong every day last year, an increase of 27 per cent over the figure for 2009, according to the Immigration Department.
Each overnight visitor from the mainland is estimated to spend HK$6,511 per trip.
Gao Haiyan, a government academic studying big cities, told the paper the flow of locals shopping elsewhere was not likely to hurt local businesses.
'Although it is increasingly popular to go shopping in Hong Kong, it will not have an impact on commerce in Shenzhen because when you add up transport costs and the time it takes for travel, it is still more convenient to buy things in Shenzhen,' she said.
Immigration chiefs are expanding self-service, electronic immigration checkpoints at the border to make it easier for the hundreds of thousands of frequent mainland travellers to cross the border into Hong Kong.
The e-channels allow travellers to bypass counters and one-on-one scrutiny by immigration officers