Throngs of mainland tour groups are a common sight at luxury retailers in Hong Kong's shopping malls, but they are now coming to the city for their daily needs, too. The strong yuan and soaring food prices have prompted some marketing agents to organise shopping tours targeting staple items such as noodles, frying pans and bed linen rather than the usual designer gowns and hand-made wristwatches. Li Ying, a Guangzhou-based executive with Panasonic, who joined a one-day shopping tour to the YATA department store in Sha Tin yesterday, said she planned to spend 8,000 yuan (HK$9,575) on goods ranging from skin-care products and bed linen to Japanese soya sauce, cooking oil and crackers. 'It may sound a bit weird that I should carry such bulky and low-value goods all the way back home, but really, some of these goods cost twice as much in Guangzhou.' Another woman, who gave her name only as 'Ms Chung', said she visited Hong Kong nearly every month, picking up merchandise that included noodles, baby formula, diapers and cooking utensils, and spending up to 10,000 yuan a trip. 'With the difference in rates and sales offered by stores, we make 20 per cent savings on prices, and of course the goods are of better quality,' she said. While inflation in the mainland rose 5 per cent last month, food prices rose 11 per cent. Albert Hung, a marketing agent for China's Unionpay card, who organised yesterday's trip, said they would organise more if they proved to be popular. Daniel Chong Wai-chung, managing director of YATA Department Store, which launched its biannual five-day sale yesterday, said mainland clients' contribution to total sales is expected to reach 15 per cent this year, from 8 per cent last year. While the city abounds with anecdotes of big-spending mainlanders, some tourists said the stories are often exaggerated. Four members from the tour group said they planned to spend or usually spent HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 during their shopping trips, but one of them, Liang Luisi, an accountant earning 3,000 yuan a month, admitted she had been told to say so. 'The travel agent told me to tell the media that I planned to spend a few thousand yuan here,' Liang said. 'But I may not actually spend that much.' Liang, a first-time visitor to Hong Kong, said she had been drawn to the tour after seeing friends bringing back shampoo and skin-care products that she had not seen in Guangzhou. But she did not find the shoes and handbags particularly cheap. A Hong Kong Tourism Board survey found that only about 1.5 per cent of the 60,000 mainlanders spend HK$50,000 or more during a day visit to the city.