Massive rebound in Hong Kong retail sales

Hong Kong retail sales for the first two months of this year soared 15.7 per cent against the same period of last year, the first double-digit increase in years.

Census and Statistics Department figures just released showed a 29.8 per cent increase in February, which reflects the shifting of Lunar New year from January last year to February this year. That followed a revised figure of 4.2 per cent growth for January, a month when a decline might well have been expected given New Year’s timing.

But while many retailers were providing anecdotal reports of improved fortunes for the start of this year, no one predicted an increase of more than 15 per cent for the two month period.

The value of retail sales in February was provisionally estimated at $45.2 billion. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the provisionally estimated increase of the volume of retail sales for the first two months of this year was 13.9 per cent.

A government spokesperson said retail sales have strengthened visibly this year, thanks to favourable job and income conditions and a further pick-up in visitor arrivals.

Luxury leads

Predictably, sales of jewellery, watches and valuable gifts drove the first two months sales growth, rising 21 per cent.

Apparel sales rose 19.5 per cent, medicines and cosmetics by 17.4 per cent, electrical goods by 27.9 per cent and accessories by 18.2 per cent. Food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco sales were up 10.5 per cent, department store sales up 10.9 per cent and footwear and accessories by 18.2 per cent.

The only category showing a decline in the first two months was books, newspaper and stationery, down 1.3 per cent.

The government spokesperson said the outlook for retail sales should remain positive in the near term, underpinned by upbeat local consumer sentiment amid a full employment situation and by continued improvement in inbound tourism.

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