The situation in Hong Kong is developing into a crisis that may soon cause staff layoffs and store closures, the city’s retail association warned, sending out a call for landlords and the government to step in and provide relief measures.
In a statement released Thursday, the Hong Kong Retail Management Association said business volume has turned sharply since June, when the political protests began. It had already forecasted a double-digit drop for July and August, but it further revealed that most retailers have fallen more than 50 percent in sales since the beginning of August.
“Retailers are under tremendous cash flow pressures due to high operating costs and sharp revenue declines,” it said. “If the situation continues to deteriorate, many retailers are expected to lay off or even close down.”
“At this critical juncture, the association has sent a letter to all Hong Kong retail shop owners to reduce rents to tenants for a period of six months.”
Additionally, the association called on the government to provide retailers with immediate relief options, such as financial assistance and rates waivers, to offset rents which are among the highest in the world.
This past Sunday, an estimated 1.7 million people gathered to march in the streets of Hong Kong, indicating that the political movement remains galvanized well into its third month. Further smaller protests were held in Yuen Long on Wednesday to protest an earlier triad attack in a subway station, as well as today by a group of secondary students, further pledging to hold a student strike when the fall semester begins in September.
Members of the HKRMA represent 8,000-plus retail outlets, employing more than half of Hong Kong’s retail workforce.