HONG KONG — Retailers here rang in the new year with slower than expected sales growth, with January sales rising 14.9 percent on the year.
The month’s sales, which came in at an estimated 43.2 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $5.5 billion, according to the Hong Kong Retail Management Association proved a bit of a disappointment as categories such as jewelry, apparel and department stores all showed slower growth. The association had forecast 20 percent growth for January, a key month that included the all-important Lunar New Year’s holiday.
Hong Kong retailers had generally expected that January sales growth would slow from a year ago, when sales rose 24.9 percent. Chinese new year was only three weeks away from Christmas this year and many retailers were worried that the close timing of the two major holidays would curb spending.
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Sales were far stronger during the December holiday shopping season, rising 24.8 percent year on year to an estimated 405.7 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $52.3 billion, according to the association.
Overall, sales performance in January varied across sectors, ranging from negative to double-digit growth. Jewelry, apparel and department stores showed double-digit growth, furniture and home accessories showed only single digit growth while other categories posted declines. One notable exception were sales of electronic goods, which rose 38 percent, boosted by a large number of mainland Chinese visitors during the holiday season.
Visitor arrivals in Hong Kong during the month rose to 4.1 million, up 15.1 percent from 3.6 million a year ago, with visitors from mainland China making up 75 percent of all arrivals. The number of visitors from mainland China jumped 23.9% year on year.
Cold, wet weather dampened consumer sentiment during the month, according to the trade association. Bank layoffs and the slowing property market undoubtedly also weighed on sentiment. Despite the sluggish start, 60 percent of Hong Kong companies still expect sales to increase this year, with just 9 percent expecting a decrease. The fashion and accessories sector is expected to show the most growth, ranging from 5 to 15 percent growth.
The figures come from a survey conducted by the retail association in early February. A total of 42 member companies from 10 retail categories responded to the survey, representing 2,185 retail outlets.