Shop prices in Hong Kong may be slipping towards Shenzhen levels, but SAR consumers still regard the booming special economic zone as a bargain-hunter's paradise. A Sunday Morning Post trip to the bustling Lowu Commercial City and Dongmen last week found shoppers snapping up goods at prices 25 per cent lower than in Hong Kong. The findings come after the Hong Kong Retail Management Association claimed drastic price-slashing had put the SAR in the same league as Shenzhen - particularly for clothing and food. Association chairman Yu Pang-chun said members had reported a downward price trend since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Hong Kong shoppers Josiah Chow and his friend May Lam Mei-kam, both in their 30s, said that although local prices had dropped, when it came to the cost of clothing and eating out, Hong Kong could not compete with Shenzhen. 'Even in Hong Kong, when you buy brand-name items, the quality is not that good,' Miss Lam said, pointing out the sturdy zipper on her new $70 pullover, which she said would have cost twice as much in Hong Kong. Lowu Commercial City clothing and shoe retailer Fong Sin-man agreed that although prices in Hong Kong had fallen, it was cheaper to shop in Shenzhen. Ms Fong said SAR shopkeepers felt pressured to drop prices because more customers were heading over the border. The situation gave more bargaining power to Hong Kong residents. Lowu Commercial City jade storekeeper Chui Wai-wei said business had not been good for the past year due to the economic slump rather than lower prices in Hong Kong. 'Our prices are still cheaper than in Hong Kong,' Miss Chui said, pointing to a jade bracelet priced at $150 which would cost about $200 in Hong Kong. One Hong Kong shopper said Shenzhen was the only place where she could spend money without feeling guilty, often buying five handbags for the price of one. Lunching on dim sum, Chong Suk-ming, 40, friend Jacqueline Fong Oi-ling, 30, and her family of three, said price, quality and service were better in Shenzhen. 'The food in Hong Kong is getting cheaper, but the quality is not that good, nor is the service. And when there are places that are especially cheap, usually we need to queue up for a long time to get in,' Ms Chong said. 'The food even has less monosodium glutamate.' They especially enjoyed fishhead soup ($52), which they said was unavailable in Hong Kong, and bamboo chicken in coconut soup ($28) which would have cost them about $75 a head in the SAR. Lunch for four, which would have set them back about $600 in Hong Kong, cost $250. Dongmen clothing shopkeeper Chan Bing-bing did not believe prices in Hong Kong were similar to those in Shenzhen. 'Customers from Hong Kong come in and tell me that they pay a similar price in Hong Kong, but I think it's just a bargaining tactic,' Ms Chan said. The economic slump had affected her business. 'People just seem to come in and look around, but they don't buy much,' she said. Dongmen shoppers Richard Wong, 48, and Cherry Choi, 40, said they enjoyed spending time in Shenzhen because of the variety of goods available. But the main reason they ventured over the border was for the massage and foot-washing services. 'Here, we can get a nice massage for around $25 per hour, in Hong Kong that would have cost us $90 - and that's not including tips,' Mr Wong said.