Retail sales in Hong Kong across all categories resigtered an 0.9% drop in value terms and a 1.4% fall in volume terms year-on-year, according to statistics released last week by the HK government. Sales have now fallen for the last 23 consecutive months, though the rate of decline last month has been relatively slower than before. Spending on jewelry, watches, clocks and valuable gifts declined 3.9 percent year on year to $944 million (HKD 7.33 billion), according to data that Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department. In December 2016, the category finally saw a 26-consecutive month decline dating back to October 2014 come to an end, as it booked a 2.3% increase in value terms.
Typically the Chinese New Year should result in an increase in consumer spending, but this was the case this year as the holdiay fell ealier than last year, and a government spokesman pointed to this as determining factor: "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. As the Lunar New Year fell on January 28 this year but on February 8 last year, the year-on-year comparison of the figures for January 2017 with those for January 2016 might have been affected by this factor to a certain extent." Therefore, he added, "It would be more meaningful to examine the figures for January and February combined, when available, to have a clearer picture of the underlying trend." The spokesman concluded saying, "Looking ahead, the near-term outlook for the retail sales business will continue to depend on the performance of inbound tourism and on whether local consumer sentiment would be affected by the various uncertainties in the external environment."