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Hong Kong April retail sales tumble 36 per cent as virus hammers demand

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's retail sales slumped by 36 per cent in value terms in April from a year earlier, falling for the 15th consecutive month, pummeled by the outbreak of the coronavirus that has put many retailers on the brink of collapse.

Months of anti-government unrest have also weighed on the retail sector in Hong Kong.

Sales dropped to HK$24.1 billion (S$4.37 billion), government data showed on Monday. They had tumbled 42.1 per cent in March and 44 per cent in February.

In volume terms, retail sales in April fell 37.5 per cent, compared with a 44 per cent drop in March and a 46.7 per cent plunge in February.

The government said the decline in April was narrower than in March but remained huge amid the still-severe disruptions of Covid-19.

"While the epidemic has abated in Hong Kong, the business environment for retail trade remains challenging, as Covid-19 has brought inbound tourism to a standstill," a government spokesman said, adding austere labour market conditions continue to weigh on consumption sentiment.

For the first four months of 2020, the value of total retail sales decreased by 35.3 per cent and 37.1 per cent by volume compared with the same period in 2019.

Hong Kong's economy suffered its worst quarterly drop on record in the first three months of the year, shrinking 8.9 per cent from the same quarter a year earlier.

The city's biggest retailer association has estimated that 15,000 retail stores will close down by the end of the year if operating conditions do not improve.

Hong Kong's tourist arrivals plunged by 99.9 per cent year-on-year in April to 4,125 visitors, compared with a 98.6 per cent drop in March, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said.

The number of mainland visitors fell 99.9 per cent year-on-year to 2,947.

Sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts, which rely heavily on mainland tourists, plunged 76.6 per cent in April, compared with a 75.3 per cent drop in March and February's 78.5 per cent fall.

REUTERS

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