HONG KONG — Hong Kong retail sales growth slowed in May, pointing to increased caution on the part of mainland Chinese tourists.
 
Retail revenues in the month rose 8.8 percent against May 2011, when they increased 27.8 percent versus May 2010, according to Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department.

Total retail sales in May were provisionally estimated at 36 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $4.64 billion at average exchange, up 0.8 percent against April’s revised total of 35.7 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $4.6 billion.
 
Government figures also show that retail sales in the first five months of this year gained 13.5 percent, while during the same prior-year period they increased 24.9 percent.
 
Concerns about decelerating economic growth have already slowed consumer spending in China, although the number of mainland visitors to Hong Kong remained strong — up 14.8 percent to 18.7 million between January and May versus the comparable prior-year period.

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association noted revenues in almost all sectors either declined or slowed, particularly those relying on mainlanders, such as beauty and cosmetics, personal and health care, catering, food and department stores.

The watch and jewelry category saw a particularly strong slowdown, especially for big-ticket items.
 
The Census and Statistics Department said that despite the difficult external environment, local consumer demand and tourist spending were still fairly resilient. Job market conditions and inbound tourism should continue to support Hong Kong’s retail business, a spokesman said, although uncertainty regarding the European debt crisis could weigh on consumer sentiment.

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