Surprise fall in Hong Kong retail sales

Hong Kong retail sales fell 1.6 per cent in the first two months of this year.

February’s sales were always expected to be down on last year due to the timing of Lunar New Year. They fell 10.1 per cent, while the revised figure for January was an increase of 7 per cent.

As always, the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) warned not to read too much into either month’s performance alone, asserting the combined January-February figures for each year provide a more accurate assessment of the state of retail sales growth.

A government spokesman said the weak performance of retail sales in recent months reflected that consumer sentiment remained cautious amid “various external uncertainties”.

“The near-term outlook for retail sales should continue to be affected by moderating global economic growth and various external uncertainties, but the full-employment situation and the sustained growth in inbound tourism should provide some support.”

After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, Hong Kong retail sales for the first two months of the year decreased by 1.8 per cent year on year.

Combining the two months, sales of jewellery, watches and clocks decreased by 2.8 per cent. Other categories to fall included apparel down 3.7 per cent; food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco down 1 per cent; electrical goods and other consumer durable goods down 18.3 per cent; Chinese drugs and herbs down 1.7 per cent; and optical shops, down 2 per cent.

However sales of medicines and cosmetics increased by 2.3 per cent; department store sales rose 4.2 per cent; supermarket sales by 1.5 per cent; footwear and accessories by 1.3 per cent; furniture and fixtures by 3.4 per cent; and books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 1.7 per cent.

The C&SD estimated the value of retail sales decreased by 0.6 per cent during the three months to February compared with the preceding three months, while the volume declined by 1.2 per cent.

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