HONG KONG : Hong Kong's retail sales jumped 11.7 per cent in April from a year earlier, ending two consecutive months of declines, with the rebound helped by a receding COVID pandemic and the disbursement of government's consumption vouchers.
The retail sector has been under pressure particularly after the financial hub imposed stringent restrictions to curb the coronavirus, although the government expects the sector to pick up as cases decline and measures are eased.
Retail sales in April jumped 11.7 per cent from a year earlier to HK$30.2 billion ($3.85 billion), official data released on Wednesday showed. That followed a 13.8 per cent drop in March.
"The retail sector should continue to recover provided that the local epidemic situation remains stable," a government spokesman said, adding that a consumption voucher scheme and other government measures would lend more support.
In volume terms, retail sales in April rose 8.1 per cent from a year earlier, compared with a 16.8 per cent decline in March.
For the January to April period, the value of retail sales fell 3.1 per cent from the year-ago period while volume dropped 6.1 per cent.
At the beginning of this year, Hong Kong implemented its strictest anti-virus measures as the Omicron variant triggered a dramatic spike in infections, with businesses hit hard by widespread closures.
The city's economy contracted 4 per cent in the first quarter from the same period a year earlier, ending four quarters of recovery.
The unemployment rate rose to 5.4 per cent in the February-April quarter, the highest since the April-June quarter in 2021.
The government has revised down Hong Kong's 2022 economic growth forecast to 1 per cent to 2 per cent, from an earlier 2 per cent to 3.5 per cent.
Sales of jewellery, watches, clocks and valuable gifts, which before the pandemic relied heavily on tourists from the mainland, rose 13.9 per cent in April following a revised 35.9 per cent drop in March, the data showed. The border with mainland China remains largely closed due to COVID.
Clothing, footwear and related products increased 1.6 per cent in April against a revised 41.4 per cent drop in March.
Tourist arrivals in April fell 17.8 per cent from a year earlier to 4,692. That compared with a 73 per cent plunge in March.
Online retail sales were a bright spot, surging 34.8 per cent year-on-year in April in value terms after a revised 31.2 per cent growth in March.
Hong Kong eased COVID restrictions further in May as cases eased, reopening beaches and swimming pools, and extending hours for bars, while restaurants are allowed to serve eight people per table, up from four.
($1 = 7.8489 Hong Kong dollars)