Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year food stall auction flops as winning bid for Victoria Park lowest since 2012

After just six bids between two participants, the largest food stall goes under the hammer for just HK$500,000

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Monday, 06 November, 2017, 10:56pm

The prime spot at Hong Kong’s largest Lunar New Year market received a surprisingly cold reception at auction on Monday, as the winning bid for the food stall was the lowest since 2012.

Despite strong retail figures in recent months, the top stall went under the hammer for just HK$500,000 (US$64,000), nearly 40 per cent lower than the record price fetched last year.

“We did not expect it to be that easy,” winning bidder Mark Mok said, after he beat one other person following six bids.

Mok said he was representing a catering company, but would not reveal its identity.

It was later confirmed that he was affiliated with screenwriter-turned-businessman Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen, chairman of Hong Kong-listed company China 3D Digital Entertainment, which also owns HMV Hong Kong.

In a statement, HMV said it was surprised by the low price of the stall, and would rebate its customers with value-for-money delicacies.

Why China doesn’t really celebrate Lunar New Year

Last year, the same stall was snatched up by banquet service operator ClubOne for a record HK$820,000, beating its own previous top bid of HK$630,000 in 2015. The last time the stall went for less than HK$540,000 was in 2013 when the winning bid was HK$301,920.

ClubOne did not take part in the auction this year.

Meanwhile, two smaller food booths fared even worse, having been secured by a single bidder, who refused to comment, at the base price of HK$196,460 each.

Apart from food stalls, the Victoria Park market is made up of 480 booths selling flowers and festive items.

Then and now: Lunar New Year in Hong Kong

Bidding for a booth starts at HK$10,650, and the auction was dominated by a number of major players, including Yeung Siu-lung, dubbed the “Orchid King” of Hong Kong.

The orchid grower, who won 15 booths at a total price of HK$220,000, said it was too early to tell how business would fare.

The lacklustre response is in stark contrast to the recent upbeat retail growth – sales grew by the biggest rate in 2 1/ 2 years in September at 5.6 per cent.

The auction of Lunar New Year stalls is closely watched by the market, with prices deemed as a barometer of the city’s economic performance and outlook.

Visiting a Lunar New Year market has long been seen as a traditional way to ring in the most important festival in Chinese culture.

There are 15 such markets around Hong Kong, which offer similar types of products. However, the one at Victoria Park remains the most popular because of its prime location in the Causeway Bay retail hub.

The markets kick off on February 10, and run until the morning of February 16, the first day of the Year of the Dog.

In pictures: Fun and frolic mark Lunar New Year festivities