The value of total retail sales in July decreased by 11.4 percent to 34.4 billion Hong Kong dollars, or $4.39 billion, compared with the same month in 2018, according to the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The luxury industry is the biggest victim. The value of sales of jewelry, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts plummeted 24.4 percent in the period. Medicines and cosmetics fell by 16.1 percent. Apparel was down 13 percent. Footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories dropped 10.1 percent and commodities in department stores decreased by 10.4 percent.
Alessandro Bogliolo, chief executive officer of Tiffany, said last week that “our sales in Hong Kong are significantly down compared to last year. It’s a double-digit decrease. Apart from the six days, you can imagine for the rest of the quarter it’s not the best moment for shopping.”
For the first seven months of 2019 taken together, it’s estimated that the value of total retail sales decreased by 3.8 percent compared with the same period in 2018.
The worsening result was expected. A government spokesman said the decline in retail sales reflected “weak local consumer sentiment and significant disruptions to inbound tourism and consumption-related activities arising from the recent local social incidents.”
The Hong Kong Retail Management Association forecasts that “due to the continued drop in visitor number and further dampened local consumption sentiment, member companies expect the percentage drop in sales value in August to be even higher than that in July.”
Annie Yau Tse, chairman of the association, representing 8,000-plus retail outlets, employing more than half of Hong Kong’s retail workforce, said the total number of visitor arrivals is declining on a weekly basis since mid-July and the drop widened to near 50 percent in mid-August.
“Given the protests have further spread to different districts as well as the Hong Kong International Airport, the association expects a double-digit drop in total retail sales value for the year 2019,” she added.
On Sunday, protestors once again disrupted travel to and from the airport, demonstrating outside the terminals and also forcing the closure of several subway stations close to the airport.