Masks shop on Russell Street

March 30, 2022 11:39
Photo: Reuters

When would the pandemic that has dragged Hong Kong for more than two years end?

Well, one possible sign we look for is the closure of mask shops in Causeway Bay, a district that has undergone drastic changes in the tenant mix in the past three years.

Gone were the days when the jewelry and gold shops prevailed because of the influx of mainland tourists. Now, shops that sell masks and other necessities such as smart phone accessories steal the limelight.

It should be noted that pharmacy stores are still there, switching to hygiene products and Chinese medicine such as the popular omicron-fighter Lianhua Qingwen Capsule from milk powder.

Consider Russell Street, once the world’s most expensive street that beat the Fifth Avenue in New York and Oxford Street in London.

The latest tenant of a 300 square-feet shop at 59-61 Russell Street is no surprise a certain mask shop, which has agreed to a HK$100,000 short tenancy agreement.

That was an eye-popping 90 per cent drop from the monthly rental luxury shop Folli Follie used to pay back in 2013. The average rental was then HK$3,000 per square foot, compared to about $333 at current rate.

This store adequately reflects the change of economics seen in the last five years. As it turned out, Folli Follie terminated its lease in 2018 and was succeeded by a pharmacy shop at half the rent.

Two years after, its landlord switched to short term leases and the shop was firstly rented to a cosmetic shop, then a mask shop before a health food store moved in.

With this new mask outlet, there are at least six mask shops on Russell Street, according to a property agent. Two of them, he said, are facing Times Square, while four of them facing Lee Gardens.

It is against the law if one does not wear a mask in public area. Some people even buy masks like a fashionable item for color and patterns.

The demand of masks, for now, is largely steady, although people might consume less due to a habit to stay home in the first quarter under the fifth wave.

Yet, the University of Hong Kong Professor Ivan Hung Fan-ngai suggested that people might not need to wear masks this summer, provided that herd immunity can be achieved through a combination of sufficiently high number of people having contracted the virus or having received 3 jabs. The HKU expert said a certain level of herd immunity can be achieved if 90 percent of people manage to get booster jabs by this summer, along with more than half of the population having contracted the virus.

We can certainly look forward to that day and kiss goodbye to the masks.

EJ Insight writer