Restoring the festive spirit — the ball is in the retailers’ court
Big stores in some of Hong Kong’s busiest commercial districts are either downsizing or going out of business. Landlords are cutting shop rents to keep demoralized tenants. Major theme parks are losing visitors and money.
Even the most optimistic politicians and economic analysts have conceded that the tourism boom that has given the retail sector a big boost in past years is over. The number of visitors, especially those from the Chinese mainland, may continue to rise, but the all-important tourism spending on shopping has been waning for many months.
To s u r v i v e , r e t a i l e r s a r e advised to shift their focus to catering to the needs of local consumers. Some re tailers who have been used to reaping high-profit margins by selling luxury goods to free-spending mainland tourists may not want to accept a more modest return by catering to locals.
Those who do can start by bringing Christmas back to Hong Kong. Take a casual stroll in Central or Tsim Sha Tsui, and you would think the Grinch has stolen Christmas from us.
For instance, Chater Road at the heart of the city’s financial center used to be the place to go for watching Christmas lights and getting a feel of the festive atmosphere. The landlord of the buildings housing various high-end shopping arcades was more than willing to spend the money because it could help lure shoppers to the area.
But now, the entire Central district remains business as usual, except for a few Christmas trees put up by the government at Statue Square. Apparently, luxur y goods retailers in the area don’t think Christmas would mean much to their intended patrons — the tourists.
Probably, for the same reason, a major shopping mall in Causeway Bay has stopped adorning its atrium with what was considered the tallest and brightest indoor Christmas tree for many years. There was a time when many Hong Kong people would take the ferry across the harbor just to see the Christmas lights adorning the buildings along the waterfront strip in Tsim Sha Tsui East. Those lights are now gone.
To lure back local consumers, retailers have to do more than just turning the Christmas lights back on. They have to stock the right merchandise and sell them at reasonable prices. Be realistic, the big spending tourists aren’t coming back.