Retail in Asia

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Hong Kong retail market enters post-correction era

Q1 2017 Retail rents Hong Kong Lease Transactions - Retail in Asia

By Joe Lin, Executive Director, Advisory & Transaction Services, Retail, CBRE Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s retail sector is transitioning into a period of normality. After several years of correction, the retail market is showing genuine signs of stability and renewed tenant activity.

The driver is, simply, cost. In the first half of 2017, rental costs of core shopping areas have finally come down to a level considered acceptable from a tenant perspective. Significantly, with this normalization, low-to-middle range retailers are now confident and less likely to succumb to outlandish rental costs and fierce competition with luxury jewelry stores for retail space. Higher up the value chain, landlords of shopping malls and street shops have become so nimble with their portfolio strategy that a more diversified market has brought in a new era of retail.

The change is conspicuous. Major streets in Hong Kong are no longer dominated by jewelry shops, pharmacies or luxury brands.

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Outside forces are increasingly influencing this retail shift; Chinese tourists’ diminishing consumption have changed the consumer profile. And as a result, landlords have to cater to the needs of a more local clientele. To reflect the transition in the market, landlords are actively leasing to more trendy tenants such as affordable luxury brands, diversified fashion concepts, cosmetics stores and food & beverage establishments.

The change is also occurring away from the street level. Most shopping malls have transformed or are about to transform their tenant mix by adding unique restaurants, niche fashion brands, international lifestyle stores or sports-related gadget shops. In addition to cinemas, landlords are signing boutique-style gyms as alternative tenant anchors. They are successfully attracting footfall, complemented with a sports brand added to the trade-mix.

SEE ALSO: Global shopping center completions rise, led by China

But retailers have still not fully regained their confidence and a meaningful recovery in Hong Kong will take time. Signs of a more measured rebound are more obvious with well-established brands who are still regrouping from their extensive expansion across Greater China. As such, newer brands are taking advantage of the situation and are actively acquiring.

Innovative hybrid concepts, mingling entertainment with dining, have been imported from the overseas market into Hong Kong. As opposed to previous cycles, international operators of these new concepts have found space in revitalized industrial buildings. Some of these family-friendly restaurants, like Mr. Tree and Crazy Car Cafe in Lai Chi Kok, have become so sought-after that customers have to book one month in advance to secure a place for a child’s birthday party.

SEE ALSO: Hong Kong retail sales climb 3.1% in March

Nonetheless, the current retail market is at its healthiest it has been in the last ten years. Hong Kong’s landlords are now adopting proactive and flexible strategies to attract tenants and foot traffic, paving the way for the long term development of the retail industry. Only time will tell.

Joe_Lin_CBRE China - Retail in Asia

As an Executive Director, Joe Lin is responsible for the growth of the Advisory & Transaction Services – Retail business in Hong Kong. By utilizing his vast experience in the marketplace, Joe has developed extensive dealings with major landlords and tenants.