Retail in Asia

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Hong Kong retail sales drop in March, ending 15-month growth streak

Hong retail sales in March fell for the first time in 15 months, down 7 percent to HKD 31.2 billion (USD 3.99 billion), hurt by a high base of comparison for visitor spending and the Easter holidays.

SEE ALSO: Hong Kong retail sales growth continues to lift on steady tourism uptick

The decline followed a 1.9 percent uptick in February.

In volume terms, retail sales decreased 8.6 percent year-on-year in March, compared with a 0.5 percent growth in February.

By category, sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts plummeted 17.7 percent in March, while sales of clothing, footwear and accessories dropped 16.7 percent.

While tourist arrival numbers picked up during March year-on-year, government data suggests that tourists are spending less due to economic uncertainty and the rising cost of living.

March visitor arrivals stood at 3.4 million, up 38.6 percent from a year ago period, data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board showed. That compared with 4 million in February, and 3.83 million in January.

The number of mainland Chinese visitors totalled 2.46 million in March, up 24.9 percent from the same period in 2023. That compared to February’s 3.25 million and January’s 2.98 million.

“The changing consumption patterns of visitors and residents may continue to pose challenges,” a government spokesman said, adding the government’s efforts to bring events to the region, ignite a revival in inbound tourism, and rising household income should help to support the retail sector in Hong Kong.

In 2024, the Hong Kong government continues to roll out more than HKD 1 billion in support measures for its sluggish tourism industry. The luxury shopping city has also staged more than 80 event in the first half of the year to lure more visitors, including a monthly fireworks and drone show at its panoramic Victoria Harbour.

Earlier this year, fashion house Dior postponed its menswear show in Hong Kong, which was slated to take place on March 23; a major blow to the city which is looking to boost its economy through major events.