During an online press conference on 17th February, the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA) said that the retail traffic has dropped 40 percent from December 2021 as a surge in coronavirus cases and tighter restrictions batter the sector.
“Although retail shops were not asked to stay shut, the industry suffers from the rippling effects of other sectors being told to stay closed,” said Annie Tse Yau On-yee, HKRMA chairwoman.
HKRMA estimated the tough social-distancing curbs and a looming vaccine pass at shopping malls – requiring patrons to scan the government’s risk-exposure “Leave Home Safe” app and also show their vaccination records before entering venues – could hit the sector harder than any previous stage of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, the association conducted a poll involving 22 retailers, covering 3,900 stores and 74,000 employees. About 70 per cent of association members said that they had expected foot traffic in shopping malls to fall by at least half when the vaccine pass takes effect on 24th February. Retailers also estimated that sales revenues could drop anywhere between 20 and 60 per cent when the vaccine pass is implemented.
SCMP reported that retail sales have declined drastically over recent years, having fallen 11.1 per cent in 2019, 33 per cent in 2020 and 27 per cent last year when compared to 2018, when sales totalled HK$485.2 billion (US$ 62.2 billion ).
HKRMA called on the government to roll out a fresh round of HK$5,000 (US$640) electronic consumption vouchers to stimulate the economy as part of the annual budget expected to be announced on 23rd February. The association also said the rebound for the retail sector was not possible “as long as the border closures are prolonged and there are no tourists”. Association members also called on landlords to give them concessions.