No consensus on early 2017 Hong Kong retail sales

Early consensus on the state of Hong Kong retail sales in the first two months of 2017 is – no consensus at all.

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association has republished December sales data released by the Census & Statistics Department last Friday. As is customary, the HKRMA added a sentence reporting on member retailer estimates for performance on subsequent months, in this week’s case an almost comical statement.

“Most of the member companies forecast a mid single-digit growth to low double-digit drop for the combined sales value for January and February 2017.”

Translated: the organisation has no idea, with members seemingly estimating anywhere from 5 per cent growth to 11 or 12 per cent decline – which is difficult to believe given the broader market trends in the second half of 2016.

As Inside Retail Hong Kong reported on Friday, retail sales declined by 2.9 per cent in value year-on-year and for the whole of 2016, by 8.1 per cent.

The HKRMA did not explain how it concluded retail sales in January and February combined might decline by as much as 12 per cent, which would be disastrous for the sector, currently showing signs of  recovery, especially in the jewellery and watches sector, whose sales rose in December.

It did note, however, that a 3.7 per cent decline in sales of clothing, footwear and accessories in December and a 3.2 per cent decline in department store sales were due to relatively warm weather during the month.

And that a 5 per cent increase in sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (other than supermarkets) was “due to festive sentiment in Christmas,” perhaps forgetting that Christmas occurred during the same month in 2015 as well…

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