September Hong Kong retail sales down across the board

Hong Kong retail sales in September were down 18.3 per cent on the same month last year, but the decline was less than in August. The luxury sector again took the biggest hit.

Census and Statistics Department data released Friday provisionally estimated sales at HK$29.9 billion. The revised estimate for August’s decline was 22.9 per cent, with sales for the third quarter down 15.1 per cent on the second quarter, and by 19.5 per cent year on year, almost on a par with 1998’s third-quarter record decline during the financial crisis. 

Year-to-date, sales are down by 7.3 per cent.

A government spokesman described the decline as “significant” as “local social incidents continued to take a heavy toll on inbound tourism and consumption-related activities”. 

“As protests involving violence continue to deter tourists and reduce local consumption, and the subdued economic outlook also dampens consumer sentiment, the performance of retail sales is likely to stay weak in the near term.”

Hong Kong retail sales of jewellery, watches and luxury goods fell 40.8 per cent during the month, which was less than the 50-plus per cent that some retailers were fearing. Department-store sales fell by 25.6 per cent, apparel by 26.3 per cent, accessories by 16.6 per cent, and medicines and cosmetics by 21.7 per cent.  

Perhaps the greatest difference between August and September was the obvious impact of locals spending less – to date the protests have had the greatest effect on retailers serving the inbound tourist market. Supermarket sales fell by 2.6 per cent in September; food, alcohol and tobacco sales by 13.8 per cent; furniture and fixtures by 7.2 per cent; books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 9.6 per cent; and motor vehicles and parts by 16.1 per cent.  

Sales of Chinese drugs and herbs were down 18.2 per cent, of electrical goods by 1.4 per cent and at optical shops by 15.8 per cent. 

The only category to show growth in September was fuel, up by 5.9 per cent. 

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