Date
24 September 2017
Hong Kong's retail sector has held up well despite the pro-democracy protests. Some segments such as electrical goods and photographic equipment have in fact enjoyed a sales boost since the street occupation began in late September. Photo: Bloomberg
Hong Kong's retail sector has held up well despite the pro-democracy protests. Some segments such as electrical goods and photographic equipment have in fact enjoyed a sales boost since the street occupation began in late September. Photo: Bloomberg

Did Occupy actually boost the economy?

I had said earlier that the Occupy movement won’t dent the Hong Kong economy, as the city had over the past decade proven its resilience in the face of turmoil. As for the market, it will adjust itself to cushion any impact. If a retail outlet, for instance, loses out due to the protests, some other entity may be gaining.

Now, government data give us some proof that Occupy may have in fact been contributing to the economy.

The Census and Statistics Department has released provisional statistics for retail sales for the month of October. The data shows that total retail sales in the month — when the Occupy campaign was at its peak — were up 4.3 percent in value over the same month last year after netting out the effect of price changes. The September figure also showed a high year-on-year growth of 6.6 percent.

Furthermore, based on the seasonally adjusted series, the value of total retail sales increased by 7.2 percent in the three months ended October compared with the preceding three-month period, while the volume of total retail sales was up 9.5 percent.

People may be curious about the sales in specific categories. The government data has the answer on this too: fresh fruits, vegetables, bread, pastry, confectionery and biscuits witnessed the highest increase in overall food sales thanks to the street occupiers as many of them stocked up on biscuits and bread to prepare for the protests.

A 1.2 percent drop in fuel sales indicates that road closures prompted some car owners to use public transportation.

Among durable items, electrical goods and photographic equipment had an astounding sales surge of 23.6 percent. Obviously, the Occupy factor was at play.

However, one may point out that retail sales of jewelry, watches and valuable gifts slid 11.1 percent in October. But, before rushing to attack Occupy for the sales downturn, keep in mind that those expensive items depend more on Communist cadre from across the border, rather than Hong Kong locals, to keep the sales humming.

For those looking to point fingers, they can blame Beijing’s anti-graft drive, and not the student street occupation.  

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 4.

Translation by Frank Chen

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RC

Former full-time member of the Hong Kong Government’s Central Policy Unit, former editor-in-chief of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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