Christmas sales in the United States and European Union - crucial markets for Hong Kong firms - improved last year, raising hopes that the city's export-oriented businesses will get a further boost this year as the global economic recovery gathers pace.
Data from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council shows seasonal exports to the US were up 4 per cent last year and also shows a steady improvement in sales to the EU.
"If Christmas is an indicator to 2014, we will see a better year," Trade Development Council principal economist Daniel Poon told a news conference yesterday. "Our traditional markets, the US, Europe and Japan, are on the recovery trail."
The TDC forecast Hong Kong's exports will grow 5.5 per cent this year, up from an estimated 3.5 per cent last year.
Electronics, mobile phones and toys were the most popular gifts last year, but buyers were price-sensitive, the TDC found.
"Despite the generally positive outlook, confidence among overseas importers and retailers remained fragile," Poon said.
"They are expected to play it safe regarding order size, lead time and pricing, while looking to e-tailing to shore up sales and diversify their sourcing," he said.
Federation of Hong Kong Industries chairman Stanley Lau Chin-ho said overseas buyers were ordering cautiously.
Lau said order-to-delivery times had shrunk to between two and two-and-a-half months, from three months on average previously, and manufacturers' margins had been squeezed.
Poon said the growth of foreign travel for mainlanders and a strengthening yuan were supportive, as their shopping fuelled consumption in cities such as London and Paris that Hong Kong firms supply.