Hong Kong retail sales growth slows in December as COVID outbreak dampens sentiment

  • December retail sales rise 6.2% year-on-year, 11th month of growth
  • Tourist arrivals in December soar 94.1% year-on-year compared to growth of 59.2% in November
  • Jewelry and watch sales in December up 24.0% year-on-year compared to November’s 14.4% rise
  • Full-year 2021 retail sales value up 8.1%, volume up 6.5%
  • Government sees new pressure from latest outbreak wave

HONG KONG, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Hong Kong retail sales rose for an 11th month in December, helped by the continued economic recovery, but growth was slower as consumer confidence was dampened by an outbreak of COVID-19 fueled by the contagious variant of Omicron.

Retail sales in December rose 6.2% from a year earlier to 33.3 billion Hong Kong dollars ($4.27 billion), according to government data released on Monday. This compares to a 7.1% increase in November.

“The latest wave of local epidemic and the strengthening of anti-epidemic measures have weighed on consumer sentiment and put further pressure on the retail sector,” a government spokesperson said.

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Expressed in volume, retail sales rose 3.4% in December from a year earlier, compared with a revised growth of 4.3% in November.

For the whole of 2021, total retail sales increased by 8.1% in value and 6.5% in volume. This compared to a decline of 24.3% in value and 25.5% in volume in 2020, the first year the pandemic hit.

The value of online retail sales in December jumped 31.5% from a year earlier, compared to a revised November figure of 28.2%.

Sales of valuable jewelry, watches, clocks and gifts, which before the pandemic relied heavily on mainland tourists, soared 24.0% in December from a 14.4% rise in November, the data showed.

Clothing, footwear and related products rose 12.5% ​​in December from a revised jump of 17.2% in November.

Tourist arrivals in December soared 94.1% from a year earlier to 9,448. This compares to a 59.2% increase in November. However, total visitor arrivals for 2021 fell 97.4% year-on-year to 91,398.

The city’s economy grew 4.8% year-on-year in the fourth quarter and 6.4% for all of 2021. read more

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slipped to 3.9% in the October-December quarter as the labor market improved along with a sustained economic recovery.

($1 = HK$7.7978)

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Reporting by Donny Kwok and Twinnie Siu; Editing by Simon Camero-Moore

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