Surprisingly high prices were paid yesterday as the second batch of stalls for next year's Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park were auctioned.
One made eight times the reserve, a change from the relatively quiet day at the fast-food and wet goods stalls auction on Wednesday.
Some bidders said they had never paid so much for a stall.
"The price of the one stall we got this year is double that of two stalls last year. We will have to raise more money during the fair," said Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which each year runs a fund-raising stall at the fair.
Lee paid HK$94,000 for the alliance's traditional spot - the No 1 stall near the park's Tin Hau entrance - eight times the HK$11,460 reserve price for a dry goods stall. The alliance operated two stalls, numbers one and two, for a combined HK$45,200 last year.
This year Lee lost the second stall, which went for HK$38,000. The stalls are well known for hosting the alliance's former chairman, the late Szeto Wah, who created and sold calligraphy of traditional greetings. The alliance's net profit, including donations, last year was HK$223,000.
This year it plans to sell CDs of songs about the civil rights movement and raise funds for a permanent June 4 memorial museum it hopes to set up by 2014.
Leung Yui-hung, known as the "king of chicken cakes" because he has been selling the popular Guangdong snack for the past seven years, lost his usual stall at the Great George Street entrance for the second year in a row. It went for HK$135,000. He lost another stall, number 30, which fetched HK$150,000, one of the highest prices yesterday. He paid HK$61,000 for it last year.
"Competition was so fierce. I couldn't even get one with HK$14,900. It's the first time I couldn't get hold of a single stall the whole morning," Leung said.
He lost in another vigorous bid in the afternoon, and finally bought a stall near the Causeway Bay entrance for HK$75,200. He is not optimistic about this year's economy and expects to slightly increase snack prices.
The two most expensive of the eight themed stalls drew a record-breaking HK$90,300 each - the highest price for this type of stall in the past decade. These themed dry good stalls are twice as large as regular ones and permit the sale of only Lunar New Year-related food, spring couplets, toys or decorations. The most expensive one last year was just HK$72,000. A woman bought another five for about HK$60,000 each.
Larry Lee Kin-lim, head of commercial subjects at Concordia Lutheran School in North Point who brought his pupils to the auction at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, saw caution among most bidders. Fewer people were raising their hands than in previous years, he said.
Prices of stalls at the edges of the fair where there is more foot traffic were higher than in previous years, and Lee believed chain companies that sell branded products like backpacks and chocolates secured those.
University student Daniel Long, who bought a stall with his friends for HK$24,000, said selling established goods rather than their own products was more profitable.