SARS UPDATE: Already reeling from the fear of SARS, Hong Kong citizens were given more bad news this week when chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa opined publicly on the situation. "I fully understand that the epidemic has dealt a very severe blow to Hong...
SARS UPDATE: Already reeling from the fear of SARS, Hong Kong citizens were given more bad news this week when chief executive Tung Chee-Hwa opined publicly on the situation. "I fully understand that the epidemic has dealt a very severe blow to Hong Kong’s economy," he said at a news conference.
For the public, such words are not reassuring. Two more housing estates were found to have numerous cases of SARS and the government ordered mandatory isolation for anyone who has had close contact with a person who has contracted atypical pneumonia.
The city, normally bustling with commercial activity, has been grounded. Top hotels are reporting occupancy of less than 10 percent and many, including the Grand Hyatt and The Peninsula, have closed off entire floors to save money. They have also closed many of their restaurants. The Mandarin Oriental, for example, has closed two of its most famous: Vong and Man Wa.
The drop in tourism has meant that most hotel employees are now facing compulsory unpaid leave. James Lu, executive director of the Hong Kong Hotels Association, commented that "this is the most dire situation we’ve faced since the 1967 riots in Hong Kong."
At the airport, normally the region’s busiest international passenger terminal, fewer and fewer flights arrive. According to the Airport Authority, 22 percent of flights for this month have been canceled. And daily arrivals at Chep Lap Kok are said to be around 30,000 a day compared with the normal 80,000.
The local government is implementing a new system whereby all people leaving Hong Kong will have their temperature taken before they can board a plane.
Compounding the problem is international reaction to the epidemic. Although Hong Kong has reported 1,190 SARS cases to the World Health Organization, with 82 deaths (as of Monday), that total is less than 0.01 percent of the region’s population. Still, pilots from Air India are refusing to fly to Hong Kong and Malaysia’s government announced that tourist visas would not be issued to Hong Kong citizens. Hong Kong officials have reacted strongly and are calling on Malaysia to reconsider. "There is no reason why the mobility of Hong Kong residents who do not have any close contact with infected persons should be restricted," said Regina Ip, Hong Kong’s secretary for security.Panama has also banned travelers from Hong Kong. Singapore has banned those with low incomes, like domestic helpers. Philippines’ President Gloria Arroyo has asked her fellow compatriots in Hong Kong not to come home for Easter, affecting thousands of maids in Hong Kong.
Retail sales are also falling. Yu Pang Chun, chairman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, said retail sales have fallen 50 percent since the outbreak of SARS in the city. He has called on landlords to halve rents for merchants for three months in order to soften the blow. Giordano International, which sells casual clothing through one of Asia’s largest chains, reported that its sales fell 20 percent since the outbreak. Its stock price fell 13 percent on the news.
In the meantime, the only merchants enjoying brisk sales are those selling face masks. And, in a sign that Hong Kong has lost neither its nose for a commercial opportunity nor its sense of style, one may purchase face masks decorated with Hello Kitty, Snoopy, camouflage prints or even Burberry logos. — Constance Haisma-Kwok
ROOM AT THE INN: The average office vacancy rate in Tokyo’s central business district — comprising the five central wards of Chiyoda-ku, Chuo-ku, Minato-ku, Shinjuku-ku and Shibuya-ku — rose 0.19 percentage points from a month earlier to 8.18 percent at the end of March, according to local real estate firm Miki Shoji. "As major companies canceled leases in line with steps to close, consolidate or relocate offices, the supply of vacant office space in existing large-scale office buildings increased in the month of March by about 23,000 tsubo [818,340 square feet]," said the firm.
In 2003, a raft of completions of redevelopment projects and construction of company-owned buildings have led to a conspicuous number of lease cancelations.Occupancy conditions for office buildings scheduled to reach the end of construction in less than one year are generally favorable, and the number of fully or mostly occupied new large-scale office buildings has increased, according to Miki. On the other hand, because existing large-scale office buildings have also seen an increase in attractive vacancies, these buildings are actively courting companies seeking to relocate to more appealing space. Moreover, management consolidations at large corporations and the establishment of new companies have sparked renewed demand for office space. "Given these kinds of conditions, and irrespective of the space available in newly constructed buildings or existing buildings, the competition to attract tenants has grown intense," said the firm. — Koji HiranoBANKRUPTCIES FALL: Some good news and some bad news on the Japanese bankruptcy front. While 18,928 companies went bankrupt in Japan for fiscal 2002 ended March 31, down 5.6 percent from a year ago, the year was the fourth worst after World War II, and the second worst since the nation’s bubble economy collapsed in early Nineties, according to business research firm Teikoku Data Bank. Their debts amounted $110.9 billion (converted from yen at current exchange rates), 17.5 percent lower than a year ago. The number of public companies that went bankrupt was 22 compared with last year’s 21. — K.H.
SAIGON SEWING: The talks between the U.S. and Vietnam about the imposition of import quotas was a major topic of concern at a trade show held in Ho Chi Minh City last week. Exhibitors at the 2003 Vietnam Textile and Garment Expo acknowledged that quotas would likely slow the strong growth rate of the nation’s apparel industry, according to Pham Van Tan, director of show organizer Vietnam National Textile and Garment Corp. "They worry about this problem," he said. "They need to plan ahead but they don’t know what will happen in the future. We can only wait to see what happens with the talks in Washington." Exhibitors also worried about their industry’s prospects come 2005, when quotas will be dropped among members of the World Trade Organization. Vietnam is not a WTO member, which means quotas imposed by the U.S. will continue to limit its exports in 2005. — Elizabeth Durnan
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)