BUYERS beware: Hong Kong is losing its edge as a shopper's paradise. If it's that diamond-studded Rolex you're looking for, the cool half-million-dollar price tag will not be obtainable anywhere cheaper than in Hong Kong. But, while the territory remains the cheapest city for the fifth year for typical luxury tourist goods, its lead continues to slip. Although prices are 15 per cent below average for items listed in The Economist Intelligence Unit's price survey for major tourist destinations, this marks a fall of five percentage points over last year. Three years ago, Hong Kong boasted prices 29 per cent below average. 'There has been a slight deterioration in Hong Kong's price competitiveness against its main competitors, although its lead over its nearest rival, Taipei, has widened over the last year,' the unit concluded. The survey takes in 11 cities, including Taipei and Toronto, and lists typical market prices for tourist goods such as designer handbags, watches, perfume and video cameras. No other cities can offer such 'bargain' prices as: $8,000 for a Celine Kelly handbag; $535 for 100 ml of Chanel No 5 eau de toilette, or $14,000 to $500,000 for a Rolex watch. 'It still shows that Hong Kong is incredible value for money and the world leader,' Hong Kong Tourist Association spokesman Peter Randall said yesterday. Last year, tourism brought in $84.5 billion, worth eight per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Cities such as Tokyo are catching up. The US dollar's appreciation against the yen helped Tokyo rise to fifth place, up from ninth. The weaker yen took a bite out of Hong Kong's price advantage, according to the analysis. Tokyo was 10 index points behind Hong Kong, compared with 33 in 1995. The most expensive shopping destination this year is Sydney, according to the survey, toppling Toronto from top spot. Hong Kong is cheaper than Taipei, London, Bangkok, Tokyo, Singapore, New York, Paris, Frankfurt and Toronto.