Hong Kong's retail rebound lost steam in March, posting a 20.1 per cent year-on-year increase that was significantly lower than February's figure, despite the easing of Covid-19 social-distancing rules.
Provisional figures released by the Census and Statistics Department on Tuesday showed retail sales in March had risen to HK$27.6 billion, or back to the level of last October, after posting the fastest improvement on record in February, at 30 per cent year on year.
A government spokesman said March's performance was still far below pre-pandemic levels.
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"While local consumption sentiment saw some improvement following the gradual relaxation of social-distancing measures since mid-February, the near-term outlook for the retail trade is still challenging as inbound tourism remains in the doldrums," he said.
He called for the community to get vaccinated to reboot consumption.
About 7.7 per cent of the sales in March were online transactions, a 43.3 per cent jump to HK$2.1 billion from the same period last year.
The latest figure compares with the 42.1 per cent contraction from the same month last year, which was recorded during the first wave of Hong Kong's coronavirus crisis.
Retail is among the hardest-hit industries after tourism ground to a standstill in the city following the closure of all but three border checkpoints for more than a year.
There is no indication of when borders will reopen again, with the picture particularly uncertain regarding mainland China.
Shoppers appeared more active in March after social-distancing rules were relaxed in mid-February.
More to follow...
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