It is the time of year when you can find out just how much a dollar can buy you in this city.
A washing machine, a can of abalone, a bag of frozen goose liver or a rack of lamb?
Yes, any of the above, as well as popular traditional Chinese medicine products such as Korean ginseng peel, nourishing pills and turtle jelly.
But the catch is: you have to compete with 100,000 other people who have lined up in front of Victoria Park for the special offers.
Welcome to the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo (工展會), which opens this weekend and will run for 24 days.
It’s like a Chinese Christmas market without Santa Claus and can be compared to the Lunar New Year Flower Market.
Jointly organized by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau and most local chambers of commerce, the expo, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is the largest citywide outdoor warehouse sale, famous for food and home appliances.
The fair, which charges an entrance fee of just HK$10, has always been a favorite family activity for Hongkongers.
Last year, a record 100,000 people on average turned out each day, contributing to total sales of nearly HK$1 billion (US$130 million) – and the record is expected to be broken this year.
That will be good news for the retail sector, which is facing a slump in tourist numbers this year for the first time since 2003.
Arrivals of mainland tourists fell by a double-digit percentage last month, owing in perhaps to the lingering effect of the fatal beating of a mainland tourist in a dispute over forced shopping.
Luckily, the expo is an event where local housewives, not tourists, bring their wheeled luggage to shop till they drop.
For a change, many merchants are also launching online sales to try to tap the younger market.
For example, mainland home appliance maker Midea will offer 106-kilogram washing machines for HK$1 each on the first day but will also reserve 10 of them for internet users who post selfies on its Facebook page.
Likewise, the Super Star Group of restaurants will offer 50 boxes of double-boiled pig lung soup with almond at the expo each day, as well as a maximum of 10 boxes per day through its online shop.
But the fair is mostly for retailers to clear inventory at attractive discounts.
The owner of a store selling dried seafood, aware that the sentiment among shoppers is far from satisfactory this year, indicated she would cut a further 20 percent from the prices of her major sale items, some of which will be put in a “lucky bag”.
There will also be special online prices to attract the younger generation of shoppers.
Well, all this may not be as exciting as the gigantic record-smashing US$14.3 billion in “Singles Day” sales Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. racked up Nov. 11, but it might be a good time for Hongkongers to pick up bargains during the festive period.
See you at the expo!
(The HK$1 gimmick is popular in Hong Kong. Last year, a woman surnamed Wong became famous on the internet after a video clip showed her using her hands, instead of tongs, to pick up HK$1 frozen lobsters and place them in her shopping basket during the Hong Kong Food Festival.)
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