As the Hong Kong economy reels from four months of anti-government protests, one sector could not only benefit from the chaos – but also thrive on it. Digital retail could take off in the city, with the protests forcing shops and restaurants to shut early, or close entirely. “More people are now used to these online platforms and apps because of the situation,” said Alice Yip, head of consumer and industrial markets, Hong Kong at KPMG China. “Businesses that already have online channels, they get better figures from online sales. Hong Kong is a convenient and tiny city, but once people get used to online platforms, digital retail will develop better,” she said. According to a survey conducted in July and August this year by KPMG and GS1 Hong Kong, the local chapter of Brussels-based not-for-profit global supply chain standards organisation GS1, half of Hong Kong’s younger generation want businesses to adopt mobile platforms. Food deliveries rise sharply as Hongkongers stay home on weekends E-commerce has been slow to develop in the city, where shops and restaurants are never far away from their customers. Only 4 per cent of overall retail spending in Hong Kong was conducted online in 2018, according to “The 2019 Retail Global Payments Report” by FIS’s Worldpay. In mainland China, that number stood at 24 per cent. However, this easy accessibility has been hit by the protests, which have led to blocked roads and MTR stations, shopping centres, restaurants and street-level establishments closing early. After face masks were banned in Hong Kong on October 5, the resulting protests led to the closure of shopping centres across the city, including Sogo in Causeway Bay, Elements in West Kowloon and Yoho Mall in Yuen Long. Moreover, MTR, which has been targeted by protesters for its perceived pro-government stance, was shut for a whole day. These circumstances could boost digital retail. “If a business is operating with [offline as well as online channels] that could – to some extent – ease its struggles,” said Anna Lin, chief executive of GS1 Hong Kong. Hong Kong retailers targeted by protesters forced to retreat HKTV Mall, one of the largest online shopping platforms in the city, reported that in September it received 16,300 orders every day, about a 20 per cent jump compared with 13,800 in May. The protests began in June over a controversial extradition bill, but have expanded to cover other issues, including income inequality and lack of affordable housing in the city. Food-delivery apps Deliveroo and FoodPanda said last month that they have been growing in Hong Kong and had recorded an increase in order volumes between June and September, with weekend nights being peak time for orders. While neither company specified how large this increase was, FoodPanda said in August that in the past three months it had increased the number of its riders in the city by 50 per cent to 1,200.