Retail trade is one of the most significant contributors to Hong Kong’s economy. In 2021, the retail industry employed more than 250 thousand people, the highest among all service industries. Despite being one of the leading retail markets in Asia, Hong Kong suffered from a plunge in retail sales in 2020, resulting from diminishing tourists and lockdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to the effective pandemic control and gradual lifting of tourist bans, retail sales rebounded in the following two years.
The post-pandemic 2020 and 2021 witnessed an unprecedented increase in e-retail businesses. In 2021, online sales represented 6.9 percent of Hong Kong’s total retail, up from 3.7 percent before the pandemic. In addition, the number of e-commerce users soared to 5.8 million. COVID-19 has reshaped Hong Kong’s retail landscape in many ways, and the changes will likely continue long after the pandemic.
Digital transformation in Hong Kong’s retail sector
Visitors from outside Hong Kong have played a significant role in the city’s economy. Around 60 million people visited Hong Kong each year before the pandemic, and the share of tourists’ consumption in total retail sales has hovered at 30 to 40 percent. The majority of tourists who visited Hong Kong were from mainland China, and they spent nearly 6,000 Hong Kong dollars per person on each trip. Offering a diverse range of brands and commodities, Hong Kong is known as a shopping paradise for millions of visitors from mainland China every year. The most popular products among Chinese travelers were beauty products, apparel, and luxury goods. In September 2022, the authority in Hong Kong removed its mandatory hotel quarantine requirement, which is expected to ignite retail tourism in the city once again.
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Research expert covering e-commerce and FMCG in Greater China