Hong Kong retail sales plunge 11.4 per cent in July

Hong Kong retail sales in July plunged by 11.4 per cent as ongoing protests and the China-US trade war took their toll. 

The fall was widely expected with several large retailers projecting double-digit declines based on their own internal monitoring during the month. 

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”.

He said the Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) expected Hong Kong retail sales will likely stay weak in the near term, as escalated US-Mainland trade tensions and subdued economic conditions continue to dampen consumer sentiment. 

“The situation may even deteriorate further if the social incidents involving violence do not come to a stop.”

July’s decrease followed a 6.7-per-cent decline in June when the current round of protests commenced. For the first seven months of the year, sales are down by 3.8 per cent year on year.

After netting out the effects of price changes, July’s figure was even bleaker, down 13 per cent compared with a decline of 7.6 per cent in June and a year-to-date 4.4 per cent. 

Retail sales to visitors usually account for about 50 per cent of the total market in Hong Kong, so the key category of watches, jewellery and luxury goods – the largest category – plummeted by 24.4 per cent in July. 

Apparel sales fell by 13 per cent, medicines and cosmetics by 16.1 per cent, and commodities in department stores by 10.4 percent. 

Categories less reliant on visitors performed better: sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco were down by 2.3 per cent, consumer goods, not classified elsewhere by 1.4 per cent, and books, stationery, newspapers and gifts by 6 per cent. 

Sales of electrical goods fell by 17.4 per cent, of footwear and accessories by 10.1 per cent and of furniture and fixtures by 8.7 per cent. 

The only category to post growth year on year was supermarket sales, which rose by a modest 1 per cent. 

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