HONG KONG — It has been another tough month for retailers here.
January retail sales in Hong Kong slumped 6.5 percent on the year, according to figures released Thursday by the government’s Census and Statistics Department. A slowdown in mainland Chinese tourist flows continues to erode business for stores. Retail sales fell 8.5 percent in December and 7.8 percent in November.
The drop in January is especially noteworthy as Chinese New Year came earlier this year than the year before. The weeklong holiday kicked off Feb. 8 this year compared with Feb. 18 the year before, so preparatory shopping in the run-up to the holiday likely took place in January this year.
“Local consumer spending normally attains a seasonal high before the festival,” the government said, suggesting that January and February sales figures are likely best examined together for a more meaningful year-on-year comparison. February retail sales figures are due March 31.
The figures reflect “the protracted slowdown in inbound tourism and also weakening local consumption sentiment amid the uncertain economic outlook,” the government said.
The Hong Kong government issued a bearish forecast for the retail market.
“The near-term outlook for retail sales will remain constrained by the sluggishness in inbound tourism. The impact on consumer sentiment from recent consolidation of asset markets also needs to be closely watched,” it said, citing a dim global economic outlook. “The Government will continue to monitor the slowdown of retail business and its repercussions on the wider economy and the job market.”
In terms of product categories, sales of jewelry, watches, clocks and valuable gifts decreased by 16.3 percent. Apparel sales dropped 4.9 percent while that of medicines and cosmetics fell 3.6 percent. Footwear and accessories fared better as their sales grew 5.7 percent.
As reported, mainland Chinese tourists are increasingly inclined to pass over Hong Kong in favor of other shopping destinations like Japan.