HK retailers getting into Christmas spirit

Updated: 2013-12-23 07:57

By Sophie He in Hong Kong (China Daily)

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Hong Kong retailers are taking a number of measures this year to attract shoppers, including deeper and earlier discounts, major promotional events and flashier Christmas decorations.

The management of Harbour City, one of the most popular shopping malls in Hong Kong with mainland visitors, said it has arranged a series of displays to attract tourists.

The activities include a Disney panoramic Christmas display and a glass fairyland.

In addition, the mall said that customers wearing red clothing items on Dec 24 will get a surprise gift from the mall's Santa Claus.

Other companies are also trying to boost the season's spirit.

Elizabeth Kok, retail portfolio director at Swire Properties, told China Daily that her company created its own mall decorations and brought in performers to entertain shoppers.

"This year, Pacific Place's winter scenes are populated by a magical robot Santa and his team of robot elves, snowmen and reindeer," said Kok, adding that Pacific Place - a popular shopping mall in Admiralty - also extended its hours in December.

Yet it's too early to say whether the promotional events will boost sales. Caroline Mak Sui-king, chairman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, told a conference call that most members of the association are only expecting single-digit sales growth for the Christmas period.

However, "jewelry and watch retailers are more positive, they're expecting double-digit sales growth", she said.

Mak said that last Christmas, retail sales in Hong Kong increased 11 percent year-on-year, which was "not much".

"So, if you take the base effect into consideration, retailers really are not expecting much this Christmas."

Industry observers said that Hong Kong's Christmas shopping season used to be more festive. The city used to see retail sales growth of more than 20 percent year-on-year, and even more than that during the holiday season.

Mak said the gloomy expectations for the Christmas holiday period are because many retailers believe that most mainland visitors already did their shopping during the "Golden Week" break in early October.

Retailers now expect fewer people from the mainland to visit Hong Kong during Christmas as it's not a public holiday on the mainland.

"Also, many local people will travel outside of Hong Kong during Christmas, which is not good news for local retailers," Mak said.

She also said that local consumption levels in 2013 were not very strong.

"The sales of food, furniture and electronic products only increased by around 5 percent during the first 10 months of the year," said Mak, adding that sales of those products were affected by a slump in property transactions in Hong Kong in 2013.

Meanwhile, sales of pharmaceutical products and cosmetics rose by 12 percent year-on-year, mainly due to the fact that they're probably the favorite products of mainland visitors, she said.

"As local consumption has not been strong during the year, mainland visitors are even more important now for the retail sector in Hong Kong."

Mak said that as economic growth slowed on the mainland, consumption levels also declined.

The majority of mainland tourists now are from smaller cities. "The spending habits of mainland travelers have also changed, they're spending less and buying less expensive products."

She added that retail sales in November and December are likely to record "high single-digit" or "low double-digit" year-on-year growth.

According to the city's Census and Statistics Department, in the first 10 months of 2013, total retail sales increased by 11.9 percent year-on-year.