Saturday, December 14, 2019
Martin Hennecke

24pc October retail sales slump is worst on record
Hong Kong's retail sales fell 24.3 percent year-on-year to HK$30.1 billion in October, the largest year-on-year decline for a single month on record, amid months-long anti-government protests, data from the Census and Statistics Department showed. The drop marks a ninth consecutive month of decline in retail sales value. In volume terms, retail sales in October fell 26.2 percent from a year ago, compared with a revised 20.3 percent drop in September. The sales of jewelry, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts fell the most, declining by 42.9 percent. On the other hand, sales of commodities in supermarkets increased by 0.5 percent in October over a year earlier. For the first 10 months this year, the total retail sales value decreased by 9 percent compared with the same period last year, while retail sales volume slid 10 percent. Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po told lawmakers yesterday he expected the first budget deficit since the early 2000s for the fiscal year, and said that the ongoing turmoil has hurt economic growth by two percentage points this year. The retail data indicates that the annual Golden Week holiday in mainland China failed to translate into a tourist bump that could have alleviated the domestic economic pain. October tourist arrivals fell 43.7 percent from a year ago to 3.31 million, said the Hong Kong Tourism Board. That compared with a 34.2 percent drop in September. The number of mainland visitors shrank 45.9 percent, accounting for 76.1 percent of the total. Many proprietors will have to make hard choices: whether to continue the fight into next year or give up as leases come up for renewal and employee bonuses must be paid. A government spokesman said that retail sales continued to plunge in October as the local social incidents with increasing violence depressed consumption sentiment and severely disrupted tourism and consumption-related activities. The spokesman further pointed out that ending the violence in social incidents and restoring social order is crucial to the creation of an environment for the retail business to recover.

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