Visitor arrivals stem Hong Kong retail sales decline

Hong Kong retail sales declined 2.9 per cent in December, year-on-year, as visitor numbers showed signs of recovering and the watches and jewellery sector posted a long-awaited increase.

That follows a revised Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) figure of 5.4 per cent for November, demonstrating that while the comparison is against a high decline a year earlier, the fall appears to be tapering off at last.

For the full year, total retail sales were estimated at $436.6 billion, down 8.1 per cent in value and 7.1 per cent in volume over 2015.

A government spokesman said the narrower year-on-year decline in December partly reflected the revival in visitor arrivals in that month, along with the stable labour market conditions which continued to help support local consumer sentiment.

“Looking ahead, the near-term outlook for retail sales business will still depend on whether the recent improvement in inbound tourism could gain more traction and the extent to which local consumer sentiment would be affected by various external uncertainties.”

According to the CSD, the value of total retail sales in December was provisionally estimated at HK$42.4 billion. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the provisional estimate of the volume of total retail sales in December 2016 decreased by 2.8 per cent compared with a year earlier.

Analysed by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of impact on the total retail market, wearing apparel drove the decline this month, down 4.2 per cent, followed by sales of commodities in department stores, down 3.2 per cent; electrical goods and photographic equipment down 25.2 per cent;  miscellaneous consumer durable goods down 23.9 per cent, footwear and accessories down 0.5 per cent; and books, newspapers, stationery and gifts down 2.2 per cent.

Sales of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts increased by 2.3 per cent in December – while not a huge degree, a significant move given the impact they have on total retail sales figures. This was followed by sales of commodities in supermarkets, up 0.7 per cent; food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco up 5 per cent; medicines and cosmetics up 4.8 per cent, furniture and fixtures up 7.3 per cent; Chinese drugs and herbs up 9.3 per cent; and sales by optical shops up 6.2 per cent.

For the whole of 2016, sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 17.2 per cent over the year and apparel by 4.9 per cent in value.

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