Hong Kong’s retail sales jumped by 7.5 per cent in November, the biggest year-on-year increment in almost three years, backing predictions that the industry is on track for a full recovery.
On Wednesday the Census and Statistics Department released its figures, with a total of HK$38.7 billion in sales recorded for the month.
The promising trend was partly driven by the launch of Apple’s iPhone X in the city, a highly coveted gadget for mainland buyers because of a US$200 (HK$1,500) price difference between the two markets.
Industry watchers expect growth to continue this year, albeit at a more modest pace.
After a two-year contraction starting in 2015, the city’s retail sector rebounded in March last year and has since been growing.
The pace of recovery was the biggest since February 2015, when it was buoyed by the Lunar New Year holiday shopping spree.
The November surge also coincided with a 7 per cent rise in visitor numbers. Inbound tourism has been a vital source of revenue for shops, especially jewellers and luxury labels.
In a one-off event, the iPhone X, which hit shelves on November 3, was the biggest catalyst for sales of electronics.
Sales in the consumer durables category surged by 15 per cent that month.
Simon Lee Siu-po, a senior lecturer from Chinese University’s business school, said he witnessed first-hand the hype around the iPhone launch.
“Mainland shoppers just flocked to Apple store in droves … they either bought the phone as a symbol of wealth, or as a gift for important people,” he said.
Lee said he expected mainland visitors to continue as the driving force behind the recovery of the local retail market, citing a stable yuan.
The strength of retail sales in the city was such that even two major e-commerce campaigns in November – Taobao’s Singles’ Day festival on the mainland and the Thanksgiving sale across the US – did not dent consumption in Hong Kong.
Taobao and the Post are both owned by the Alibaba Group.
Thomson Cheng Wai-hung, chairman of the Retail Management Association, said updated product portfolios at chain outlets might have helped retain customers.
“New gadgets for e-gamers and home living are very popular these days, and shops are stocking up on these items to keep up with competition,” he said.
The industry body predicted a 3 to 4 per cent growth for 2018, citing a bullish global assets market and robust inbound tourism figures.