Hong Kong has too many drugstores and planned curbs on mainland arrivals could help consolidate the sector and encourage diversification in the retail industry, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday.
Economist Kwan Cheuk-chiu said the disappearance of small pharmacies in prime shopping areas will have little impact on the sector.
Instead, it will encourage the healthy development of the retail industry as a whole, he said.
The Hong Kong government is studying ways to limit the influx of Chinese visitors amid complaints about unruly behavior and questionable shopping practices which have been blamed for chronic shortages of basic supplies in Hong Kong and spiraling prices.
Some politicians want China to reduce the number of Chinese cities where residents are allowed to come to Hong Kong on multiple entry permits as individual tourists.
Most Hong Kong drugstores are located closer to the main shopping districts and their customers are mostly locals and foreign tourists, Ming Pao said, citing its own survey.
Yau Tsim Mong district, which comprises Yau Ma Tei, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok, has 494 pharmacies, or one for every 638 residents.
Wan Chai has the second highest density with one for 837 people, the report said.
North district, a popular destination for parallel traders, has 192 pharmacies. Sai Kung and South District have the smallest concentration of drugstores with one for every 4,000 residents.
Most Hong Kong pharmacies sell not only medicines but also daily necessities such as milk powder and toilet paper, making them attractive to mainlanders looking for quality products at lower prices.
Demand is being driven by recent food safety scandals in China and rampant counterfeiting that have made mainlanders distrustful of local brands.
Lam Wai-man, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Pharmacy Ltd., said most drugstore customers in the main shopping districts are travelers, not parallel traders.
Business will be little affected even if the government tightens the entry requirements for mainlanders.
In January, pharmacy and cosmetics retail sales were HK$4.38 billion (US$564.7 million), down 0.1 percent year on year, government data shows.
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