Hong Kong’s largest Lunar New Year fair plagued by sluggish sales, vendors say, as some eye further cuts to break even

Hong Kong’s largest Lunar New Year fair plagued by sluggish sales, vendors say, as some eye further cuts to break even

Hong Kong’s largest Lunar New Year fair has been plagued by sluggish sales with some vendors eyeing further cuts to prices in hopes of breaking even, as the days-long event in Causeway Bay approaches its final day on Friday.

Some hawkers attributed the lull in sales volume to the border reopening that prompted residents to travel during the holiday, while others cited the unstable weather as their foe.

“I started to reduce the price on Thursday and offered further discounts today. The prices are down 30 per cent already,” said a stall owner surnamed Tsui, who was selling plush toys of Japanese animated characters.

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Financial Secretary Paul Chan visited the Lunar New Year market in Causeway Bay on Friday afternoon. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

“Sales have been worse than in previous years. After the borders reopened, people kept going to the mainland and travelling overseas. I just want to recover my costs.”

This year’s Lunar New Year fair in Victoria Park was the first one operating at full capacity in four years following the Covid-19 pandemic, with cooked food and merchandise making a return.

A check by the Post on Friday afternoon found that flowers and snacks, including toffee strawberries and mochi, appeared to be more popular than merchandise.

Mainland Chinese tourist Emily Tan, 65, said she felt the warmth of the festive atmosphere at the fair and had spent about HK$600 (US$77) on orchids, local snacks and a pinwheel, which signifies good luck in Chinese culture.

“This is my first time visiting a Lunar New Year fair in Hong Kong,” the retired news editor from Hainan province said. “The fair gives me the impression that everything is thriving and energetic.”

Crowds began to gather after sundown, when hawkers were making their last-ditch efforts to clear their stocks by rolling out more discounts and offering more freebies.

Joshua Lang, a 42-year-old filmmaker from Los Angeles, said he was captivated by the “lovely colours and smiling faces enjoying the food and exploring what the market has to offer”.

“I haven’t experienced the Chinese New Year celebration in my area,” he said. “I really enjoyed the visuals of the market.”

But physical therapist Terrence Luk, 36, said he felt the scale of the fair had become smaller than before the pandemic.

“Before Covid-19, people had to walk cheek by jowl along the passageways. It was not an easy walk,” he said. “But now, there is so much space between people.”

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A daffodil specialist surnamed Ng said most people were only window shopping, and few were willing to pull out their wallets. “The rain and cold have discouraged people from visiting,” she said.

A cold snap hit southern China this week, bringing rainy and windy weather to the region. The Hong Kong Observatory recorded a maximum temperature of 14.2 degrees Celsius (57.6 Fahrenheit), with the lowest reading 11 degrees.

Another florist, surnamed So, said the sales were “less than ideal”, adding there were fewer visitors than she had expected.

“I’ve already marked down the prices by a fifth compared to last year, even though the flower import prices went up by 20 to 30 per cent,” she said. “I just hope to make ends meet.”

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A peony specialist from Luoyang city, surnamed Li, said he had reduced his prices by 50 per cent.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po visited Victoria Park in the afternoon, taking pictures and talking with residents. He bought a pinwheel, cushions and a dragon-shaped neck pillow, and was also seen talking to young vendors about their sales.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu visited a fair at Sha Tin, where he spent HK$530 on orchids and lilies. He also chatted with about a dozen residents, including flower stall operators.

“My vision for the Year of the Dragon is very positive,” Lee said. “Many things should progress positively, but everyone must come together. I have confidence in the Hong Kong people.”

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The crowd at the Lunar New Year fair at Victoria Park on Friday. One vendor said most visitors were only window shopping. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

He added that he was glad to see the smiles on residents’ faces at the fair this year, after a mask mandate was still in place around this time last year.

Lee also used this opportunity to promote the activities to be held in the coming days, including a night parade at Tsim Sha Tsui on Saturday, as well as the Victoria Harbour fireworks on Sunday, which will be held for the first time since 2019.

He said authorities would ramp up crowd, transport and border-control measures to avoid a repeat of New Year’s Eve’s chaos that left thousands of mainland visitors stranded at metro stations unable to cross the border after watching the fireworks show.

In a short video with his wife Janet Lam later on the day, the chief executive extended his Lunar New Year greetings to Hongkongers, saying the Year of the Dragon was bringing “fresh vitality and prosperity” to the city.

“We will seize each and every new opportunity to showcase the charm of our city and write a bright new chapter for Hong Kong,” he said, adding he wished Hongkongers “a full house of happiness and harmony”.

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The crowd at the Lunar New Year fair at Victoria Park on Friday. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

The Shenzhen Bay checkpoint, linking western areas of Hong Kong with Shenzhen, will be open 24 hours a day from Lunar New Year’s Eve on Friday to next Tuesday.

The Lo Wu control point, which connects to the East Rail line, will remain open until 2am on Friday and Sunday. The last train to Lo Wu will leave Admiralty at 12.56am on both days.

Overnight train services, except for the Airport Express and Disneyland Resort line, will be available on New Year’s Eve, with eight to 20 minutes’ intervals.

KMB and Citybus will launch special routes N276 and NB3, respectively, from Lunar New Year’s Day on Saturday to next Tuesday. The former runs between Tin Shui Wai and San Tin, while the latter connects Tuen Mun Pier to Shenzhen Bay Port.

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