Global Christmas sales for 2015 performed steadily overall, according to a report by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). The report, based on preliminary Christmas sales in markets around the world, also highlighted varied sales patterns in different regions, while earmarking the United States and Europe, most notably the United Kingdom and Germany, as bright spots. End-of-year retail sales are regarded as a bellwether for the retail business in the year ahead.
The retail climate in mainland China has become more positive, indicating that pro-consumption measures are starting to take effect. Retail and online sales grew on the back of intense discounts and promotions. The market saw strong demand for consumer electronics and mobile phones. Fashion products such as clothing, footwear and accessories as well as toys registered steady sales. Growing sales for household appliances may indicate bottoming out of property market, while poor air quality prompted rising sales of air purifiers and humidifiers. The year-end shopping spree in the country was boosted by the rising popularity of Singles’ Day (11 November), with retail sales for November expanding 11.2 percent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, Japan performed strongly, with sales rising more than five per cent thanks largely to an influx of tourists from the mainland. Other promising markets included Mexico and emerging European economies such as Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic.
HKTDC Principal Economist (Global Research) Daniel Poon said consumer sentiment remains cautious, with shoppers focused and tactical buying, favouring less pricey items instead of more ostentatious purchases.
"Value-for-money will thus continue to be the catchword for most shoppers, with an ever-expanding proportion of them using the Internet to source product information and compare prices," said Mr Poon. "In this context, importers and retailers will remain conservative, with many still expected to play safe in terms of order size, lead time and pricing. Many of them are also expected to expand their e-tailing activities in order to shore up their sales, while diversifying their sourcing and manufacturing away from the mainland to other lower-cost production bases throughout the Asian region."
Other trends identified in the report were global in nature. They included growing demand for consumer electronic items such as TVs, tablets, smartphones and wearable technology. Toys were in particularly strong demand in terms of those related to new franchise merchandise, such as Star Wars items.
The use of mobile devices and social networks to search for gift ideas and make online price comparisons continued to be the norm while e-tailers, including most bricks-and-mortar retailers with websites and mobile apps, took advantage of the trend to successfully boost sales.
While sales to traditional markets continue to be important, Mr Poon said Hong Kong exporters should seek out new business opportunities in emerging markets. "Mexico’s piggyback on the US recovery and Brazil’s 2016 Summer Olympics, for instance, should bring increased opportunities for Hong Kong exporters," he said. "Of greater importance, of course, is the mainland, where government endeavours to achieve a moderately prosperous society by 2020 and promote consumption so as to realise more balanced economic growth will unfold new dimensions for those Hong Kong companies used to selling to overseas markets."