Launched at the end of last year, the government’s retail technology support scheme has had few takers.
Hong Kong retailers in general face two challenges on the cost side — high rent and high wages.
It is also well known that fewer young people are willing to work in the retail industry because of the long working hours.
Estimated vacancies in the sector exceed 8,000.
To help retailers cope with the labor shortage and wage pressure, the government came up with the Retail Technology Adoption Assistance Scheme (RETAAS) last year.
It helps retailers invest in information technology to make their staff more efficient, relieving stress on manpower.
Funding is offered on a matching basis — the government covers half of the approved project cost and the applicant the other half.
Each applicant can receive a maximum of HK$50,000 (US$6,450) which can be used in one to two projects.
To apply, retailers have to submit relevant documents including a proposed budget.
The government can recommend technology providers to applicants.
There are about 65,000 retailers in Hong Kong, of which 99 percent are small and medium-sized industries..
However, only 93 companies have applied for the scheme, 55 of which have received approval, a RETAAS official told a Hong Kong Productivity Council seminar.
Asked why the failure rate is high, the official said in most cases, information is missing and documents incomplete.
Among the current applicants, a majority (more than 30 percent ) comes from the clothing and footwear sector.
POS (point of sale) systems are the most popular investment target.
The government has allocated HK$50 million for the RETAAS initiative, which means up to 1,000 firms can benefit.
That also means more than 90 percent of the money remains untapped.
RETASS is urging retailers to take advantage of the scheme.
It will be holding a series of briefings to promote and explain the scheme. Schedule details are available on its website.
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