By Donny Kwok
HONG KONG (Reuters) – More than one in 10 retailers in Hong Kong could close down in the next six months as social unrest and sometimes violent protests deter tourists, threatening the survival of smaller operators, the city’s main retailing group said on Monday.
Some 7,000 licensed retail establishments out of 64,000 in the Asian financial hub say they will be forced to close down in the next six months, the Hong Kong Retail Management Association said (HKRMA) after surveying its members.
The survey highlights the dire outlook for retailers after months of anti-Beijing protests, with Hong Kong normally a top shopping destination for Chinese tourists.
Retail sales fell by a quarter in October from a year earlier, the steepest drop on record, while tourist arrivals fell by a whopping 43.7% in the same month, squeezing malls and restaurants.
“We are talking about survival among retailers,” the HKRMA’s chairwoman, Annie Tse Yau On-yee, said. “It is going to be quite serious.”
The government has pledged a total of HK$25 billion ($3.2 billion) in economic support measures but it remains to seen whether that will be enough to help the economy, and retailers, weather the storm.
HKRMA said about 97% of survey respondents had recorded losses since the unrest began in June. Of those, 30% said they would be forced to lay off staff in the next six months – losing 10% of employees on average, or more than 5,600 people in total.
The survey, which covered chain stores and small retailers, was conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 22 and recorded the views of 176 companies, operating 4,310 stores.
HKRMA has urged more support and relief measures from the government while also encouraging landlords to offer rent cuts to help retailers.
(Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by David Dolan and Kirsten Donovan)