Hong Kong’s retail sales, and particulaly those of jewelry and other luxury items, took a nosedive in September as the protests that have plagued the city since June have kept tourists away and led to a decline in consumer spending. According to a press release and figures from the Census and Statistics Department of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the overall value of retail sales in September 2019 decreased by 18.3% to an estimated HKD29.9 billion (US$3.8 billion) compared with the same month in 2018. Retail sales of jewelry, watches, clocks and other valuable gifts dropped 41% year on year to HKD 3.63 billion ($463 million) during the month, slightly better than the 47% decline last month. Sales of this category of goods represented 12% of all retail items sold. They have fallen by 16.5% across the first nine months of the year.
A Government spokesman said the local social incidents continued to take a heavy toll on inbound tourism and consumption-related activities. For the third quarter as a whole, retail sales volume fell by 19.5% year-on-year, almost on par with the record decline in the third quarter of 1998. The spokesman further pointed out that as protests involving violence continue to deter tourists and reduce local consumption, and the subdued economic outlook also dampens consumer sentiment, the performance of retail sales is likely to stay weak in the near term. Figures released last Thursday showed that Hong Kong slid into recession in the third quarter, for the first time since the global financial crisis.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s top five luxury destinations, a place where luxutry brands and large numbers of visitors from mainland China meet. As the protests have continued and increasing turn violent and destructive, visitors from China - which typically make up around 80 per cent of the city’s overall tourists, according to Reuters - their numbers declined by 35% in September.