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Hong Kong Suffers Steep 21% Plunge in January Retail Sales

Already hit by a dismal selling environment driven by months of social unrest, Hong Kong’s January retail sales plummeted 21.4 percent as coronavirus fears kept residents home.

Total retail sales in January were estimated at 37.8 billion Hong Kong dollars ($4.86 billion), while the volume of total retail sales–the number of units sold–fell by 23 percent.

“In interpreting the figures for January, it should be noted that retail sales tend to show greater volatility in the first two months of a year due to the timing of the Lunar New Year. Local consumer spending normally attains a seasonal high before the Festival,” said the Census and Statistics Department for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which tracks sales data disclosed in its Monthly Survey of Retail Sales (MRS).

Sales of jewelry, watches and clocks and valuable gifts saw their value take a hard hit in January, plunging 41.6 percent, according to the MRS report for January from the CSD. And while the luxury sales category experienced the sharpest decline, other sectors saw substantial setbacks as well. Apparel sales dropped 28.9 percent, while department store sales fell 27 percent and footwear and accessories sales were down 21.6 percent.

In the current season, the coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan occurred just at the start of the Chinese New Year. To curtail its spread, certain cities were in lockdown and transportation in and around parts of China were limited.

Hong Kong relies heavily on tourists from Mainland China, but trade has been constricted as border restrictions disrupted the movement of Chinese consumers into the city.

According to the latest visitor arrivals data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the number of people entering the city from all countries fell to 3.2 million from nearly 6.8 million in January 2019, representing a 52.7 percent drop. From the Mainland alone, 2.5 million visitors arrived in January 2020, a 54.2 percent decline from 5.5 million in the year-ago period.