RETAIL THERAPY?: Hong Kong’s struggling retailers are waging war against the economic effects of SARS. Since the onset of the epidemic, retail sales have fallen up to 50 percent. Now the city’s merchants are beginning to offer unusual incentives to attract customers. For example, Li & Fung’s retail unit, Toys ‘R’ Us Hong Kong, is now selling its educational toys online to help parents whose children are stuck at home — and offering free delivery. Esprit Holdings, which has 40 stores in the city, has joined with Standard Charter Bank to offer a special deal to customers: buy one item with a Standard Charter credit card and get a second for about $1.30.

Similarly, department stores are offering large discounts and incentives to their customers. More than 350 consignees at Sogo have begun a seven-day campaign that offers discounts up to 50 percent; part of the profits will be donated to the Hospital Authority to help protect frontline medical staff. Mitsukoshi held a four-day promotion over Easter offering 40 percent discounts. Upscale shopping mall Times Square saw its traffic rebound 90 percent when it offered such incentives as free three-hour parking.

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