28 Dec 2012
Cautious Global Sales Outlook for 2013
Emerging Markets Outperform Traditional Ones over Christmas
HKTDC Principal Economist (Global Research) Daniel Poon noted that a cautious mood has prevailed among traditional markets, especially in EU countries most affected by the sovereign debt crisis.
Even with mostly conducive weather conditions, passable sales results were only recorded for the United States and, to a lesser extent, Germany, while tepid results were seen in the United Kingdom, France and Japan, as well as a downswing in Italy.
Year-end sales performance has gradually become a valuable pointer to retail business in the year ahead, not only in countries that celebrate Christmas but also some markets where Christmas is not a festive season, particularly the mainland.
HKTDC Principal Economist (Global Research) Daniel Poon noted that a cautious mood has prevailed among traditional markets, especially in EU countries most affected by the sovereign debt crisis. “While the austerity measures and higher tax burdens will weigh on household budgets,” said Mr Poon, “a more realistic consumer mindset characterised by increasing acceptance of austerity tends to put a floor on retail sales, in turn whetting an appetite for value-for-money products.”
Mr Poon suggested that Hong Kong exporters should seek new business opportunities in the emerging world to help realise sales increases. While Central and Eastern Europe will remain a weaker region due to its close integration with the EU, economies endowed with distinct potential are the commodity-exporting nations such as Russia, and Latin American countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Chile. Of more importance is the mainland, where government endeavours to promote consumption and rural development will open up new dimensions for Hong Kong companies accustomed to exporting to overseas markets.
Country and Regional Observations:
- US retail sales grew by about 3 per cent from last year, when a stellar growth of more than 5 per cent was achieved amid a longer Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period and low temperatures across most parts of the country.
- Mixed consumer sentiments were noted in view of economic crosscurrents. This included a rebound in housing and the job market, and a decline in household debts on one side. On the other side were ongoing political and fiscal wrangles following the Presidential and Congressional elections.
- Most shoppers stuck to lower-priced and practical items, organised their shopping to save money, and further used mobile devices and social networks to search for gift ideas and well-priced items.
- Retailers used discounts and longer shop openings to woo deal-hungry shoppers.
- E-tailers, including most bricks-and-mortar retailers with websites and mobile apps, performed well during the festive season.
- Consumer electronics, with smartphones and tablets topping the shopping list of gadgets, did well, while electronic entertainment gear and classic toys such as Barbie and Lego, or even Furby, a hit item in the late 1990s, sold well.
- Generally cold weather stimulated an appetite for clothing and footwear that offered comfort and functionality.
- The sovereign debt crisis, fiscal tightening and fragile euro fundamentals triggered an unparalleled austerity drive, resulting in consumption abstinence overshadowing festive-season good tidings.
- Most shoppers stuck to their budgets and were inclined to use mobile devices and social networks to find the best prices. They favoured cash and debit cards rather than credit cards to pay for their purchases. As consumers were more concerned with prices, value retailers tended to outsmart department and upscale stores, where sales were in part propped up by an inflow of overseas buyers, especially from the mainland.
- Germany was the bright spot in the region. Thanks largely to an acceptable labour market and rising wages, holiday sales were estimated to have risen by 1.5 per cent from 2011, roughly in line with last year’s showing. Product-wise, electronic gadgets sold well, as did traditional toys and selected new technology playthings.
- While the year-end performance in France has been less encouraging, and Italy’s even worse, sales in the UK are expected to have edged up by 1 per cent from last season. British consumers have increasingly acclimatised to new fiscal realities, tending to enjoy themselves while avoiding thoughts of the economic hardships. Consumer electronics were the standout in these three countries, especially for trendy products such as smartphones and tablets.
- As the stimulus from the reconstruction efforts following the disastrous earthquake has started to peter out, year-end sales in Japan were weak.
- For most holiday shoppers, dwindling bonuses and sustained anxiety about job security have continued to affect the mood surrounding purchases.
- Amid soaring wages and government initiatives to stimulate consumption, retail sales during the first 11 months of 2012 were 14.2 per cent higher than a year ago. In November alone, retail sales grew by 14.9 per cent.
- The brisk performance reflected not only the robust spending trend, but also a rising Yuletide spirit across the country.
- Feedback from the HKTDC’s mainland offices generally shows hearty retail and online sales for most consumer products. Home buying aside, a large number of consumers also thronged Hong Kong or went overseas for holiday shopping sprees.
Other Emerging Markets
- Sustained commodity prices tended to provide a lift to consumer sentiment and festive spending. Brazil’s Christmas sales did well. While they softened a tad from last year’s strong gains, Brazilian sales still posted a decent increase.
- Chile, Argentina and Mexico showed good sales signs.
- As for Central and Eastern Europe, consumer sentiment was overcast by the Eurozone’s debt crisis, although Christmas sales results were mixed.
- Hungary, given its fragile financial conditions, exhibited barely marginal growth in year-end sales. In the Czech Republic, the rise in Christmas sales was tepid due to its heavy reliance on exports to the EU.
- In Poland, buoyed by a sound fiscal position and less dependence on external trade, year-end sales fared better. Russia, which has benefited from firm oil and commodity prices, turned in even more handsome results for year-end sales.
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A statutory body established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is the international marketing arm for Hong Kong-based traders, manufacturers and service providers . With more than 40 global offices, including 11 on the Chinese mainland, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China and throughout Asia. The HKTDC also organises trade fairs and business missions to connect companies with opportunities in Hong Kong and on the mainland, while providing information via trade publications, research reports and online. For more information, please visit: www.hktdc.com.