Shocked retailers have been given less than three months to clear out after the owner of a popular Stanley mall chose to close down in the face of a 50 per cent rise in government fees. The 20 or so shopkeepers at the Apple Mall on Stanley Market Road face losing their businesses, and some say they will suffer financial hardship after buying up stock in the expectation that they could continue trading. They say the closure came completely out of the blue; one shop owner signed a new lease with landlord Eton Properties just two months ago. The 11-year-old mall had been a popular spot with tourists and expats, offering everything from children's apparel and handbags to celebrity posters. Stores have been given until September 30 or October 18 to move out. "[It] certainly has a huge impact on me because I restocked our shelves just before the leasing office told me to move out," said Crystal Cao Jun, 29, who has run a handbag store at the mall for the past year. "Now I have no idea how I can sell or store the new stock. I have invested a lot in my business and now the sudden termination of my tenancy means I have been running my outlet for nothing." The shopping mall spans two plots of land, one of which was designated by the government for agricultural use, requiring the developer to pay a land premium so it could be used for commercial purposes. An Eton spokeswoman said the government had asked for a 50 per cent increase in the fee, taking the annual payment to HK$5.25 million. The company would demolish the part of the mall on agricultural land, the spokeswoman added, and the disruption would make it impossible for shops to operate on the rest of the site. The Lands Department did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. Visitors shopping in Stanley yesterday expressed disappointment at the loss of the mall. "I have shopped at the mall numerous times on my previous visits," said 74-year-old Australian tourist Peter Norris. "I am saddened that I won't be able to buy nice and inexpensive clothes for my relatives and friends back home any more." Some retailers said they would struggle to find new premises in Stanley. While shops in the mall, which ranged from 100 sq ft to 300 sq ft, went for HK$15,000 to HK$30,000 per month, similar pitches at the seaside town's famous Stanley Market went for HK$90,000 to HK$100,000. Chan King-yin, 60, who has run a children's apparel store at the mall for eight years, said the closure of the store with such a short notice period left his cash-flow situation looking tight "The landlord won't let us leave until the tenancy expires on September 30 and refuses to return our deposits to us before we move out," he said. Eton Properties also runs Apple Malls in Tin Hau and Causeway Bay.