Hard-hit small retailers in Causeway Bay seek short-term rent cuts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 October, 2014, 5:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 October, 2014, 6:44am

Landlords are being urged to offer short-term rental reductions after small retailers in Causeway Bay, already saddled with some of the world's steepest rents, have seen sales plunge as much as 50 per cent due to disruptions from the Occupy Central movement.

The retailers, who have long paid high rents for their often tiny shops, complain they have had fewer customers as a result of road closures over the past month from the pro-democracy protests.

"We have been suffering low sales for nearly a month. I don't know how to pay the rent if business continues to drop next month," said a shopkeeper surnamed Cheung, who for 10 years has rented an 80 sq ft outlet in the Causeway Place mall selling causal bags and accessories aimed at students and teenagers.

With the store costing him more than HK$40,000 a month, he said it would be "a big relief if the landlord can reduce the rent for a month".

Cheung said: "Prior to the roads being blocked by the protesters, I would have students and teenagers come here after school to check out the new stock. In the first week of the Occupy movement, only a few came here and sales have plunged as much as 50 per cent."

Although sales had started to pick up, he said the shop's takings were still down 20 per cent compared with trade before the street protests erupted at the end of September. A few shops away in the same mall, a retailer surnamed Chan works at a 100 sq ft unit selling expensive jewellery aimed at "tai-tais" and office women.

"People are losing their appetite for shopping as they worry about their children who skip classes to join the demonstrations. Some of our customers told us it took them two hours to travel here from Mid-Levels," she said, referring to the traffic jams that accompanied the street protests.

Tenants at Causeway Place have reportedly banded together to request a rent cut from their landlord, Chinese Estates Holdings, which owns about 90 units. Chinese Estates was unavailable for comment.

Retail tenants at Island Beverly, opposite the Sogo department store, have also been hit hard by the disruptions. "We hope the landlord can give us a special discount on the rent as compensation for the loss of business," said a woman surnamed Fun, whose 50 sq ft shop sells shoes and accessories.