Hong Kong ends year on downer

Hong Kong retail spending slumped 3.9 per cent in December, reversing a healthy 4.2 per cent lift in November.

It brought to an end a turbulent year when sales data was affected by street protests, China’s austerity drive and – in opposite impact – Apple’s launch of the larger format iPhone.

Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) says after netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales in December 2014 decreased by 1.3 per cent from a year earlier.

A government spokesman said December’s sales were dragged down mainly by a wider fall in the sales of jewellery, watches and clocks and valuable gifts, possibly reflecting the slackening in visitor spending.

“The sales performance of many other items, including those related more to local consumption, was also lacklustre. The fluctuations in retail sales in recent months suggest that consumption sentiment was still rather unsteady.”

The total value of retail sales in December is provisionally estimated at HK$47.8 billion. (US$6.16 billion).

Shown by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of value of sales and comparing December 2014 with December 2013, the value of sales of medicines and cosmetics increased by 4.2 per cent. This was followed by sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (up 7.4 per cent); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (up 18.6 per cent) and books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (up 0.1 per cent).

In contrast, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 16.3 per cent; apparel (down 3.8 per cent); commodities in department stores (down 5.3 per cent; electrical goods and photographic equipment (down 4.4 per cent); footwear and other clothing accessories (down 3.1 per cent); fuels (down 10.4 per cent); furniture and fixtures (down 3.2 per cent); Chinese drugs and herbs (down 2.1 per cent); and optical shops (down two per cent). The value of sales of commodities in supermarkets remained virtually unchanged.

Full year data

For the full 2014 year, the value of total retail sales was $493.3 billion, down 0.2 per cent in value and up 0.6 per cent in volume when compared with 2013.

Apparel sales increased by four per cent; department stores rose 1.4 per cent; commodities in supermarkets (up 4.6 per cent); medicines and cosmetics (up 9.3 per cent); food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (up 6.6 per cent); footwear and accessories (up 5.3 per cent); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (up 4.3 per cent); Chinese drugs and herbs (up 4.2 per cent); and optical shops (up 8.4 per cent).

On the other hand, the value of jewellery, watches and clocks and valuable gifts sales fell 13.7 per cent; electrical goods and photographic equipment by 8.1 per cent; fuels by 1.4 per cent; and furniture and fixtures by 0.2 per cent.

“Looking ahead, the near-term performance of retail sales will still hinge on the labour market conditions and inbound tourism growth,” the government official said.

“We also need to closely watch over how various uncertainties in the external environment will play out and affect local consumption sentiment down the road.”

More detailed statistics can be downloaded from the C&SD here at no cost.

 

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