Helped by tourists, Hong Kong retail spending up for third straight month

Uptick of 0.5 per cent in May has industry official seeing promising end of year

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 8:05pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 10:25pm

Retail spending in Hong Kong improved in May, registering 0.5 per cent growth, on stronger inbound tourism and local demand, with further improvements seen on the horizon.

The latest figure marked the third straight month of growth after two years of decline, according to the Census and Statistics Department on Thursday.

Retail Management Association chairman Thomson Cheng Wai-hung welcomed the slight increase and agreed that better tourist numbers had helped.

“It’s very likely we will see growth at the end of 2017,” Cheng said of retail sales.

Even though the sales rose 0.5 per cent to HK$35.9 billion, the total for the first five months was down 1 per cent from the same period last year.

It’s very likely we will see growth at the end of 2017
Thomson Cheng, Retail Management Association

A government spokesman said the slight uptick in May “reflected a relative improvement in inbound tourism and the resilience of local consumption”.

Last month, Hong Kong saw a 1.9 per cent increase in its total number of visitors year-on-year, tallying 1.8 per cent growth for mainland tourists. The growth for non-mainland visitors was stronger, at 2.2 per cent.

But Cheng expressed disappointment over sales figures in certain retail categories.

The biggest retail losers in May were those selling electronic goods and photographic equipment, and durable goods, dipping 14 per cent and 12.1 per cent respectively, compared with the same period last year.

“It’s not likely electronics companies will turn around this year, but we haven’t heard of any big brands wanting to close shops or cut their staff,” Cheng said.

“There should be no worries for employees of electronics companies.”

Cheng believed the 1.4 per cent improvement in the sale of jewellery, watches and clocks was “quite good”.

The category is regarded as important given the high-volume sales associated with it, especially among mainland visitors. In April last year, the category took a 17 per cent tumble.

The biggest year-on-year increase came in Chinese drugs and herbs, which saw a 10.4 per cent jump, followed by motor vehicles and parts, at 8.3 per cent.

Cheng worried that next month’s figures could be lacklustre, citing heavy rain throughout June and the impact of Typhoon Merbok, which shut the city down for half a day on June 12.

Hong Kong retail sales rise for second consecutive month, but by just 0.1 per cent

The association chairman expected the sales figures for the first half of the year to be around 1 per cent, and predicted better numbers in the second half.

Meanwhile, the government spokesman said both tourism and local consumption sentiment would continue to drive retail sales.

But he warned that “various external uncertainties” could hinder growth.