Restor­ing the fes­tive spirit — the ball is in the re­tail­ers’ court

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK | BUSINESS - PETER LIANG

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.

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