Hong Kong’s bars, restaurants and malls count their luck after World Cup brings boost in business worth hundreds of millions

Many shopping centres turned into venues for soccer parties, while restaurants and bars with big screens introduced special menus for the Russian soccer extravaganza

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 July, 2018, 11:14pm

As local fans bid farewell to a month of World Cup soccer, the city’s malls, bars and restaurants are celebrating a boost in business from the tournament worth hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars.

Shopping centres on Monday reported a significant spike in the number of customers compared with a normal summer, and catering industry representatives estimated a HK$400 million to HK$500 million (US$51 million to US$64 million) windfall had come the way of restaurants, tea cafes and pubs.

Many malls turned into venues for World Cup parties, while restaurants and bars with big screens introduced special menus, as local businesses seized the opportunity to capitalise on the Russian soccer extravaganza.

Developer Sun Hung Kai Properties counted 36 million visitors to its 12 malls across the city and HK$780 million in revenue, up 20 per cent on the same period last year. Rival Sino Group estimated there had been a 10 per cent increase in sales among 31 million visitors to three shopping centres the firm promoted to sports fans.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, said about 2,000 bars had enjoyed a healthy rise in takings of about 30 per cent compared with the same period last year.

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However, he described their takings of HK$400 million to HK$500 million as not “a big number” after factoring in the cost of extra staff and television subscriptions to live broadcasts.

“The final kicked off at 11pm local time, which was not too late, so it attracted a lot of people to malls and bars to watch the live broadcasts,” Wong said.

Wong said business was up 6 to 7 per cent on the last World Cup in 2014, which was held in Brazil with an 11-hour time difference. With Russia hosting this year’s tournament, the difference was only five hours.

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Tommy Fong Leung-shuen, director of the Lan Kwai Fong Association, which represents bars and restaurants at the prime entertainment hub in Central, said the shorter time gap had helped spur a 50 per cent increase in revenue on the 2014 World Cup.

The 108 bars, pubs and restaurants under the association had seen a 25 per cent rise in takings accounting for HK$125 million, Fong said.

“Even though some of the popular teams did not make the final, we had quite a lot of nationals who were not even football fans coming to bars to support their home teams,” he said.

“I also noticed there were quite a lot of groups of females watching the games together in bars.”

Sun Hung Kai spent HK$20 million decorating venues, setting up promotional events and handing out giveaways to customers. Executive director Maureen Fung Sau-yim said more than 400,000 people had visited APM mall in Kwun Tong every day.

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“We had fans queuing up three hours in advance just to reserve a spot to watch the third-place play-off between Belgium and England,” she said. “There were at most 3,000 visitors watching the live broadcast together in the mall.”

Andrea Leung Tsui-shan, Sino Group’s deputy general manager of retail marketing and promotions, said many fans preferred gathering together to cheer and enjoy the atmosphere instead of staying at home to watch the matches.

“People can yell out loud with other supporters in the malls – something they often can’t do at home,” she said.