Date
12 December 2017
After the Occupy site in Mong Kok was cleared, pro-democracy protesters crowded the streets, responding to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's call for Hongkongers to go shopping. Photo: AFP
After the Occupy site in Mong Kok was cleared, pro-democracy protesters crowded the streets, responding to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's call for Hongkongers to go shopping. Photo: AFP

Gouwu, gouwu, I love you

Occupy Central ended after 79 days, but Occupy Hong Kong, which has been going on for more than 10 years, has not stopped.

Whether it was Occupy Admiralty, Occupy Causeway Bay or even Occupy Mong Kok, the protests seem to have had no effect on the shopping mood of mainland tourists during this festive season, as Hong Kong returns to normal as a shopping paradise.

I am not a shopper, although I live above a shopping mall, just like many other Hongkongers.

Living near a mall actually discourages one from becoming an avid shopper, because of the high retail prices that result from the high rents.

Last weekend, I was in Mong Kok with a buddy who recently got married to a young mainland woman.

During their honeymoon, my buddy was tasked with a shopping list that included an iPhone 6 and some cosmetics.

In two minutes, we managed to grab an iPhone 6, which sells for 10 percent more than the list price, because Apple Hong Kong has not yet made the phone available to walk-in customers nearly three months after it was launched.

But it took us half an hour to buy just a lipstick at the Sa Sa cosmetics shop opposite Langham Place.

There must have been two dozen people lined up in front of us, three or four with their suitcases, and I was pushed, but luckily not hurt, at least 10 times by various shoppers.

To speed things up, a shop manager processed the items with her phone so that a shopper only had to present a white card to check out.

But the problem is the cashier succeeded in persuading shoppers to join the chain’s membership program so that they would get an instant discount, slowing the progress of the queue.

That is perhaps the only reason I miss Occupy Mong Kok.

I cannot stop wondering why Hong Kong has become the most popular shopping destination in the world although it is the most expensive one.

This morning, I came across a CBRE third-quarter report that showed Hong Kong has topped the world in retail rents for three consecutive years.

The average monthly rent per square foot is HK$2,796 (US$361), leaving New York a comfortable distance behind at HK$2,307.

So there is reason to believe that Langham Place charges its tenants a higher rent than on Fifth Avenue, although the retailers are arguably less prestigious and the complex is surrounded by snack stores, pharmacies that sell milk powder, and Chow Tai Fook jewellery shops.

Amazingly, Hong Kong, or rather Mong Kok, attracts shoppers from many provinces of China, because it also offers bargains.

Although retailers are primarily working for their landlords, they manage to make a high volume of sales, because the goods they sell are cheap, authentic and of good quality.

Cheap, official goods appeal not just to Hongkongers but to global shoppers as well, especially mainlanders.

As I observe the mainlanders with their big bags of strong renminbi in hand and everything from gold watches to property priced at what looks to them like a 20 per cent discount, I know their spirit of shopping (gouwu) will never die.

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BK/JP/FL

EJ Insight writer

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