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Strong Sales Make for a Merry Christmas
Hong Kong's Major Markets Shine

December 28, 2006 - "Shengdan kuaile" (merry Christmas in Putonghua) has been a popular greeting in Chinese mainland retail outlets and restaurants this month. The festive cheer matches perfectly with the mainland's buoyant economic conditions, according to a Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) report issued today.

Year-end sales in the mainland were heartening, aided by the rising popularity of Christmas there, says the report. It captures year-end sales performance observations from the Council's more than 40 offices around the world, 11 of them in the mainland.

"Globalisation is changing consumption patterns in the mainland, especially in big cities and among the younger generation," says the TDC's Assistant Chief Economist Daniel Poon. "Christmas may now be the third most important sales season in the mainland, after Chinese New Year and October's golden week."

Santa has been good to more than the mainland this year. Year-end sales in Hong Kong's major export markets recorded an across-the-board increase, the first time this has happened in almost 10 years.

"In the United States, aggressive retail promotions may have offset the impact of economic moderation caused by the slackening housing market," says Mr Poon, who expects US year-end sales to grow by four to five per cent over 2005.

The report cites a slightly longer Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period - 31 days against 30 days last year - as a positive factor. And with Christmas day falling on a Monday, shoppers enjoyed a full weekend to purchase last-minute gifts. An influx of tourists, particularly from Europe, also shored up Christmas sales in the US.

The report notes a polarizing of year-end sales in the US this Christmas. High-income shoppers, those who most benefited from the booming stock market, favoured luxury stores. General consumers were more apt to turn to the Internet, which generally offered lower prices and free delivery. Holiday shopping sales on the Internet jumped by at least 30 per cent this year in the US.

Consumer electronics continued to be the star performer, according to the report. Topping the shopping list of US consumers were flat panel TVs and handheld digital audio players. DVD players, digital cameras, mobile phones and notebook computers were also popular. Video game consoles, led by Nintendo's Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3, were hot sellers. TMX Elmo was a must-have item among shoppers. Mild weather throughout much of the US, however, hindered sales of winter clothing during the festive season.

In the European Union, Christmas sales were better than last year, with sales in the United Kingdom outperforming other EU countries. Falling unemployment in the EU boosted local consumption, while stronger European currencies enticed EU shoppers to buy abroad. Asian tourists, especially those from China, bolstered retail sales in Europe, according to the report.

In Japan, year-end sales grew modestly, bolstered by an increase in winter bonuses and better job prospects.

Looking at 2007, the TDC report expects consumption in the US to grow at a slower pace than in 2006. Spending in the EU and Japan is also likely to moderate. Hong Kong's exports, according to the report, will expand by six per cent in 2007, two percentage points less than the city's export growth in 2006.

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For press enquiries, please contact Lawrence Yau of the TDC's Corporate Communication Department. Tel: (852) 2584 4510. Email: lawrence.yau@tdc.org.hk

About TDC
Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) creates opportunity for Hong Kong companies, promoting trade in goods and services and connecting China and the world through Hong Kong's business platform. The TDC has more than 40 offices worldwide, including 11 in the Chinese mainland. Trade publications and sector-specific research reports are available online or at the TDC Business InfoCentre. For more information, visit http://www.tdctrade.com

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