Douglas Young looks at the factors affecting Hong Kong retail sales, not least the impact of e-commerce


It has been a difficult year for retailers in Hong Kong. A number of contributing factors have come together, creating a big impact. Some are well known, such as the reduction in spending by mainland tourists. Another is the rising trend of Hong Kong people to spend overseas, shopping in popular holiday destinations such as Thailand and Japan.

Then, there are factors that have been brewing in the background for some time, which are now entering "maturity". One is the after-effects of too much instant-gratification retailing.

At the dawn of the millennium, there was an influx of foreign brands into Hong Kong with an agenda of establishing a beachhead to conquer the lucrative China market. Local consumers were suddenly offered much more choice. As a result, local brands, which had previously dominated, suffered. This was also a time when the so-called "fast retailers" were able to offer high style at low prices, previously thought impossible. Consumers went on a decade-long shopping binge, stockpiling more than they will ever need for years to come.

Increasingly, even for those who still have disposable income, they are not spending for material returns, but for "new experiences". After all, with every repeated purchase of jewellery, handbags, clothes and watches, the novelty factor diminishes. New experiences can be had by going on holiday to never-been-before places. People are also visiting "new" restaurants. And things considered a "new invention" are being bought - these, after all, also offer "new experiences".

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