Photographer: Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg

Hong Kong Retail Sales Plunge the Most in 17 Years

  • Sales slump comes after Chinese visitor number declines
  • Jewellery, watches and electrical goods suffer the most

Hong Kong’s retail sales in February have plunged the most since 1999 as fewer Chinese tourists visited the city during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Retail sales dropped 21 percent in February to HK$37 billion ($4.8 billion) year on year, according to a statement from Hong Kong’s statistics department. Combining January and February, sales fell 14 percent. The monthly decline is the worst since January 1999 when sales were also down 21 percent.

“Apart from the severe drag from the protracted slowdown in inbound tourism, the asset market consolidation might also have weighed on local consumption sentiment,” a government said in a statement on Thursday. “The near-term outlook for retail sales will still be constrained by the weak inbound tourism performance and uncertain economic prospects.”

The government will monitor closely its repercussions on the wider economy and job market, it said.

Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd., the world’s largest-listed jewelry chain, and Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd. reported slumping sales over the holiday when mainland Chinese tourists to the territory dropped 12 percent during Feb. 7-13. The stock market rout and a slowing Chinese economy have affected consumer sentiment for luxury goods, Chow Tai Fook has said.

Mainland China tourists “are unlikely to come back in the short term,” said Forrest Chan, an analyst at CCB International Securities Ltd. Hong Kong residents are also consuming less due to stagnant property values and the weak stock market, he said.

“Hong Kong’s retail market will continue to fall for the rest of 2016 as all the negative factors won’t be solved in the near term,” Chan said in a telephone interview.

Chinese visitors are projected to fall 3.2 percent for the year, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, with average spending dropping 4 percent to HK$6,948.

Sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts dropped 24 percent, while those of electrical goods and photographic equipment plunged 27 percent, according to Thursday’s statement.

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