Hong Kong’s major shopping malls are wheeling out more than HK$18 million (US$2.3 million) in spending rewards to entice mainland Chinese travellers, but many of the city’s typical hotspots appeared to mark Sunday’s border reopening with muted trading.
Local residents also took part in last-minute gift shopping before heading north as quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the mainland was reinstalled after a three-year hiatus.
At Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza, a mall that used to be a popular destination for cross-border shoppers along the East Rail line, a Post reporter found on average only two out of 20 customers were visiting from Shenzhen.
But mainlanders who spoke to other Post reporters in the city revealed they were prepared to spend big.
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“I don’t have a shopping list or a budget. Let’s see what things I encounter. I haven’t been here for three years. I almost forget how convenient it is to shop in Hong Kong.”
Several dispensaries in the border district Sheung Shui, which used to be popular with mainland shoppers and parallel traders, also saw few customers.
“I haven’t seen many customers speaking in Mandarin yet, only three or four so far,” said an employee of Hong Hing Dispensary early in the afternoon.
“Today is still the first day and I expect more people will come over later.”
Supplies of fever and diarrhoea medicines had run out and had not been replenished, he added.
Mainlanders crossing the border from Lok Ma Chau station included Henry He, a 37-year-old entrepreneur who had been away from his family for around two years.
He said he had prepared many gifts for his wife and children in Hong Kong before returning to the mainland.
The Lok Ma Chau rail station is among four border control points resuming operations, with the others being at Man Kam To, the Macau Ferry Terminal in Sheung Wan and Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui.
“For my kids, I got them a Nintendo Switch and snacks such as chocolate and candies,” He said. “As for my wife, I have a surprise for her, which is a Gucci handbag she had been longing for. Of course, I bought some make-up as well.”
“I spent around HK$11,000 on the gifts. But I find it worthwhile since I haven’t seen them for such a long time and I feel guilty about the time when I was away.”
Sun Hung Kai Properties on Sunday announced HK$10 million’s worth of spending rewards at 15 of the group’s shopping malls.
Executive Director Maureen Fung Sau-yim said the malls had worked with their tenants in advance to increase stock for cosmetics, health products, gold watches and sportswear by 20 to 30 per cent.
Fung said she expected the initial phase of reopening would stimulate a 15 to 20 per cent increase in customer traffic on a year-on-year basis.
Eight major shopping malls from Sino Group, including Olympian City and Tsim Sha Tsui Centre, are also offering HK$8 million in rewards in the first phase of attracting mainland travellers and other tourists to Hong Kong.
Bella Chhoa Peck-lim, director of asset management at Sino Group, said three of the group’s major shopping malls were expected to see significant year-on-year growth in footfall and business in the first quarter of 2023, benefiting from the border reopening and the Lunar New Year holiday.
From 9 to 28 January, customers at Tsim Sha Tsui’s K11 Musea can also redeem e-vouchers worth more than HK$2,200 by presenting a valid overseas passport or travel document.