The wave of deep-pocketed mainland shoppers that normally hits Hong Kong for a holiday shopping spree may be more of a trickle than a flood, with popular shopping areas around the city, particularly Times Square less thronged than usual.
Staff at retail outlets in Times Square, a Mecca for mainland retail tourists, said business appeared to be down compared with the National Day holiday last year.
Customer numbers have dropped off across the board, according to Devon Au, a supervisor at luxury goods store Dunhill in Times Square. Au said purchasing power also appeared to be reduced.
Bobo Chow, a supervisor at Red Valentine, another luxury brand, said visitor numbers were down.
“Traffic is quite low and spending power is very low also compared [with last year]. Last year was very high and the traffic was very good,” Chow told SCMP.com, adding that the picture appeared to be the same across the spectrum, and not limited to luxury goods.
However, mainland visitors on Monday appeared upbeat.
Ma Jingquan, from Xinjiang, is on his sixth visit to Hong Kong.
“I haven’t noticed any drop in the number of mainland tourists coming to Hong Kong this year,” said Ma, in Hong Kong to buy Samsung mobile phones.
“For me it is pretty much the same.”
Xie Xinping, a Shenzhen-based businessman who works in the power sector, was upbeat, and said he and his family had been coming to Hong Kong to shop for years.
“I just arrived this morning. I want to buy a lot of things – shoes, jeans. Every year we come here,” Xie told SCMP.com outside Times Square while he waited for his wife to complete cosmetic purchases. “We’ve been here many times."
Wang Duanduan, who is visiting from Beijing, predicted that numbers would pick up as the holiday wore on.
“There are not so many people now but there will be more in the afternoon,” he told SCMP.com.
While anecdotal evidence may point to a more cautious attitude towards consumption by mainland consumers, as the growth in the world’s second largest economy continues to slow, research company Nielsen remains upbeat.
Oliver Rust, Nielsen’s Hong Kong managing director, told SCMP.com last week that the number of mainland Chinese arriving in Hong Kong each year was already more than four times the city’s population and that number is growing at 24 per cent a year.
Rust said he saw no reason why the growth was not sustainable.
"We don’t see any reason why at the present time -- based on what we know today -- that that trend would ever stop because the hinterland in China is so vast,” he said.
Growth in retail sales in Hong Kong have been trending downwards for some time. Retail sales rose more than 20 per cent year-on-year in the last two months of 2011, but dipped to less than four per cent in July, when retail sales were HK$36.5 billion, up 3.8 per cent year-on-year. Retail data for August will be released later this week.