Hong Kong retail sales declined again in May, but at a slower pace

Hong Kong retail sales fell again in May, but the rate of decline was significantly less than in April. 

According to the Census and Statistics Department the value of retail sales in May, provisionally estimated at HK$40 billion (US$5.1 billion), decreased by 1.3 per cent year on year, well below April’s 4.5 per cent decline. 

For the first five months of this year, Hong Kong retail sales were down 1.8 per cent compared with the same period last year. After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, sales for the five months were down 2.2 per cent. 

For the three months to May, sales fell by 0.8 per cent.

For once, the jewellery, watches and valuable gifts category – which traditionally has the greatest effect on overall retail sales fluctuations – registered one of the lowest falls in May, down 2.7 per cent.  Apparel sales fell 4.6 per cent, electrical goods by 14.8 per cent, optical shops by 11.3 per cent, furniture by 1.3 per cent and supermarket sales by 0.8 per cent. 

In contrast, sales of medicines and cosmetics rose 1 per cent, of food, drinks, alcohol and tobacco by 3.1 per cent, footwear and accessories by 1.6 per cent, Chinese medicines by 0.7 per cent and books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 0.1 per cent.

A government spokesman said narrower decline of Hong Kong retail sales in May was partly due to the late timing of the Labour Day holidays in Mainland China this year, which had led to a visibly larger year-on-year rise in visitor arrivals during the month. 

“Overall, the performance of retail sales remained subdued in recent months.”

Retailers will be waiting for the June figures, the month when the protests over the extradition bill stepped up, disrupting access to stores on Hong Kong Island at certain times and possibly dissuading overseas visitors. 

The spokesman said that in the near term, the outlook for retail sales will likely be clouded by the still-cautious consumption sentiment amid an uncertain global economic environment. “Nevertheless, the sustained expansion in inbound tourism and the largely stable local labour market should continue to provide some support.”

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