News / Asia

    On Fleeting Hong Kong Trips, Chinese Make Frugal Fashionable

    Shoppers walk across Canton Road, famous for its luxury brand stores, at Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, May 9, 2013.
    Shoppers walk across Canton Road, famous for its luxury brand stores, at Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district, May 9, 2013.
    Reuters
    Armed with empty suitcases and same-day return tickets, an army of mainland Chinese is descending on suburban outlet shopping malls and international fashion chains in Hong Kong, turning cheap into the new chic as luxury falls out of favor.
     
    Wealthy Chinese used to stop over in Hong Kong for a few days to pick up a Louis Vuitton bag or a wristwatch for up to 40 percent less than in Beijing or Shanghai.
     
    These well-heeled tourists have now been overtaken by bargain-hunters that stay for a few hours, spend more at shops like Inditex SA's Zara and malls such as Citygate Outlets, turning Hong Kong into a must-be location for retailers who are braving some of the world's most expensive commercial rents.
     
    "There are more mainland consumers than locals," said Tsz Chung, a salesman at a Nike Inc. store in Citygate, located in the satellite town of Tung Chung near the airport. "Typically, mainland consumers look for cheap goods."
     
    Foreign retailers treat Hong Kong as a gateway to China, which is poised to become the world's biggest consumer market in three years, and how mainland tourists shop is big business.
     
    Sluggish sales growth in Europe and the United States also makes China, with its rapidly expanding middle class and rising incomes, especially attractive.
     
    Chinese nationals were the largest single group of tourists to Hong Kong last year. Of the 35 million who visited, 20 million came and left the same day, an increase of more than a third on 2011, according to tourism bureau data.
     
    Many short-term visitors come by shuttle bus or train from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. They often head straight to Citygate, where more than 80 international brands including Levi's jeans, Coach Inc., Polo Ralph Lauren and Burberry are offered at steep discounts.
     
    "It's cheaper here and there's a wide range of options," said Chen Yunlong, a 29-year-old tourist from the border town of Shenzhen as he strolled through the mall on a recent Saturday.
     
    Visitors like Chen, who said he shops in Hong Kong up to three times a week, made Citygate the best performer among the big malls operated by realtor Swire Properties.
     
    First-quarter sales rose 22 percent at the outlet mall, beating a one percent loss at the luxury-focused Pacific Place and a 3.5 percent increase at the mid-tier Cityplaza mall.
     
    At the Nike outlet, Chung said all sales staff were now required to be fluent in Mandarin, the most prevalent Chinese dialect. Most Hong Kong residents speak Cantonese.
     
    Mass market retailers muscle in

    Thrifty Chinese tourists are also proving a boon for New Town Plaza, a shopping mall located in the suburban Sha Tin district and owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd.
     
    Retail rents at New Town, which is miles away from spots frequented by tourists, are among the city's highest. Last month, L Brands Inc. lingerie chain Victoria's Secret chose to locate its first Hong Kong stores at the mall and the prime downtown district of Central.
     
    The increase in the number of bargain-seeking Chinese tourists was a factor that attracted 51 international brands to set up their first Asia Pacific stores in Hong Kong last year, about twice as many as in Singapore and Tokyo, according to research recently released by property consultancy CBRE.
     
    Affordable retailers already established in the region are also forking out lofty rentals to attract these visitors.
     
    Japan's Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., owner of the Uniqlo clothing chain, last month opened a 37,500-square-foot store in the iconic Causeway Bay, which overtook New York's Fifth Avenue as the world's most expensive retail location.
     
    British fashion brand Topshop will open a 14,000-square-foot store in Central in June, paying $516,000 a month in rent. Zara is also taking over the space once occupied by H&M.
     
    "There are just too many brands looking for shops," said Susan MacLennan, director of retail at property consultants Savills in land-scarce, densely populated Hong Kong. "A lot of international brands are still very interested, but it's quite difficult to find space for them."
     
    Frugal and fashionable

    The boom in Hong Kong's mass market retail sector comes as luxury goods sales suffer due to a slowdown in China's economic growth, a government crackdown on giving expensive gifts in return for favors and in-your-face displays of wealth.
     
    LVMH, the world's biggest luxury goods group, said in April demand in China had been "flattish" for about 10 months. Luxury watch retailers Sincere Watch (Hong Kong) Ltd. and Emperor Watch & Jewellery Ltd. also reported a decline in sales.
     
    In a bid to boost business, some upmarket brands are sending clients on all-inclusive shopping trips to Hong Kong.
     
    But as the influence of these big-spenders on the global luxury market wanes, the spending power of their less wealthy countrymen is rising and changing Hong Kong's retail scene.
     
    "For sure, we will see more big brands opening stores," said Joe Lin, senior director of retail services for CBRE Hong Kong.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora