Hong Kong retailers forecast sharp drop in sales as protests rock city

Reuters

Posted at Jul 16 2019 06:09 PM

Riot police help a family to leave as they try to disperse pro-democracy protesters inside a mall after a march at Sha Tin District of East New Territories, in Hong Kong, China July 14, 2019. Tyrone Siu, Reuters

HONG KONG - Hong Kong retailers said on Tuesday they expect sales for July and August to drop by double-digits from a year earlier due to protests that have gripped the Chinese-ruled city for more than a month.

On top of that forecast, the Hong Kong Retail Management Association also sharply changed its full-year retail sales forecast to a double-digit fall instead of single-digit growth.

It urged the government to resolve the dispute over a proposed extradition bill peacefully.

Millions have taken to the streets over the past month in some of the largest and most violent protests in Hong Kong in decades over a bill that would allow people to be sent to mainland China for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

The retail group's statement came after a relatively peaceful rally descended into chaos late on Sunday, when protesters in a shopping mall that houses some of the world's largest luxury brands threw umbrellas and plastic bottles at police who retaliated by firing pepper spray and swinging batons.

"The (retail) industry is worried that the incident will hit Hong Kong's international image as a safe city with good food and a shopping paradise," the association said in a statement.

Last month, PwC revised down its Hong Kong full-year retail sales forecast to a 5 percent drop, from a 3 percent fall for 2019, amid the Sino-US trade dispute, equity market turbulence and volatility of the Chinese yuan.

PwC also said the recent political and social unrest, coupled with a lack of new tourist attractions, might lower mainland tourists' appetite to visit Hong Kong in the short run.

The value of Hong Kong retail sales in May declined 1.3 percent from a year earlier.