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Thursday, November 3, 2016, 23:11

Hard-hit retailers breathe a sigh of relief

By Luo Weiteng

Hong Kong’s losing streak in retail sales is showing signs of easing, taking some of the pressure off hard-pressed retailers.

With tourist numbers making a slight rebound after being in the doldrums for the past two years, the total value of the city’s retail sales slipped by a narrowed 4.1 percent in September to HK$33.8 billion year-on-year although it still marked a slump for the 19th consecutive month.

According to the Census and Statistics Department, the figure had contracted from a 10.5-percent fall in August, and represented the lowest monthly drop so far this year.

For the first nine months of this year, total retail sales by value decreased by 9.6 percent, compared with a year earlier.

“September’s figures were better than expected, partially driven by the low base in the year-ago period,” said Hong Kong Retail Management Association Chairman Thomson Cheng Wai-hun.

Despite the base effect, he believed that the data have offered some respite for struggling retailers and would shore up the city’s retail sales for the rest of the year.

“If the encouraging trend goes on, Hong Kong’s retail sector, which continues to find support from the low base, could enjoy a months-long low single-digit drop in sales for the coming year,” Cheng said. “But, it may be too early to say an industry-wide rally is on the cards.”

In particular, he noted that the better-than-expected retail data have much to do with Hong Kong’s seemingly recovering tourism industry.

Total tourist arrivals in September fell by 3 percent from a year ago to 4.42 million, following a 9.4-percent drop the previous month.

Mainland visitor arrivals declined 5 percent to 3.33 million in September, compared with an 11.3-percent tumble in August.

Mainland visitors, who accounted for 75.4 percent of total arrivals, made up more than 30 percent of the aggregate retail sales.
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