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Retailers count cost of Hong Kong protests

Concern grew among international retailers in Hong Kong this week about the long-term impact of the recent protests, as many counted the cost of slow or non-existent trading during the crucial ‘Golden Week’ Chinese holiday.

Thousands of protestors have occupied areas of Hong Kong since September 22 after Chinese political leaders revealed limits would be set on who could become chief executive of Hong Kong in 2017.

At its peak, more than 100,000 people protested, although numbers dwindled earlier this week following a government crackdown and the end of Golden Week, which ran from October 1-7.

Retailers told Drapers they were worried about the longer-term impact on consumer confidence among Chinese shoppers, who account for two-thirds of Hong Kong retail sales due to higher goods taxes in China.

Ray Clacher, managing director of Gieves & Hawkes, said the Savile Row tailoring business was forced to close its flagship on Queen’s Road for three days, reopening last weekend. Its other central stores, including one in protest area Causeway Bay, remained open, but

Clacher said: “All are down 50% on Golden Week last year, which is a disaster because this is a peak week for visitors to Hong Kong and a good test of how the peak season will be.

“The fallout between China and Hong Kong may last for some time. The real worry is whether Chinese tourists will continue to pile into Hong Kong in the future, or will Macau, Hainan or further afield benefit from Hong Kong pushing back on mainland China?”

David Pun, owner of Japanese denim brand Evisu, which has four Hong Kong stores, said: “This was a disappointing Golden Week. For many apparel retailers sales are down 30% year on year, whereas they anticipated a small increase. I believe it will be a blip, but no doubt it will take time to regain China tourists’ confidence.”

The ANZ bank estimates the protests, concentrated in the Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay districts, could cost retailers HK $282m (£22.6m) in lost sales.

Janice Wang-Millard, chief executive of Hong Kongbased fashion fit consultancy Alvanon Group, said: “We have heard of 70% drops in revenue for certain stores in affected areas. This has been especially difficult for SMEs.”

Hong Kong-based suppliers, as well as distribution firms helping international retailers deliver to Hong Kong, said business had been unaffected.

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