Retail losing streak stretches to 12 months

Top News | Avery Chen and Bloomberg 3 Mar 2020

Hong Kong's retail sales fell for the 12th straight month, dropping 21.4 percent in January after a Lunar New Year holiday interrupted by the coronavirus outbreak and amid months of anti-government protests.

Retail sales by value fell to HK$37.8 billion in January, extending a run of declines that started in February last year - the longest downward trend in three years - data from the Census and Statistics Department showed.

Total retail sales volume also declined 23 percent year-on-year in January.

However, sales of goods in supermarkets rose 10.2 percent in January from a year earlier and fuel sales grew 12.3 percent.

Hong Kong's retailers and shopping malls had been battered by months of political unrest before the outbreak that emerged in December and escalated ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.

January's data has not fully reflected the virus' impact as mainland officials only confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus for the first time on January 20.

A government spokesman said the business environment of retail trade has become even more austere lately, as the threat of Covid-19 has brought inbound tourism almost to a standstill and caused disrupted consumption-related activities.

Preliminary visitor arrivals data for February showed average daily traffic to the SAR plummeted to fewer than 3,000 people, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board - an almost 99 percent decline from a year ago, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Annie Tse Yau On-yee, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, expects retail sales to fall 30 to 50 percent in the first half, adding that most retailers saw 40 to 80 percent drops in sales during the Lunar New Year.

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