Hong Kong’s retail sector has seen a slight boost in business as most residents received HK$2,000 in electronic vouchers under the consumption voucher scheme. But many refrained from buying expensive electronic goods because of the amount of the instalment, a lawmaker said on Monday.

“Most people received only HK$2,000, the amount was not sufficient for them to purchase items of middle to high values,” a retail sector lawmaker Peter Shiu Ka-fai said on an RTHK programme. “But the atmosphere was quite good.”

consumption voucher
Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Eligible residents received the first HK$5,000 payout – of a total worth HK$10,000 – in April. The second phase of the e-voucher scheme split the remaining HK$5,000 into two or three payments, with HK$2,000 disbursed via stored-value payment systems on Sunday.

For those who chose to receive their vouchers via AliPay, Tap & Go, WeChat Pay HK, HSBC’s PayMe and Bank of China’s BoC Pay, the remaining HK$3,000 will be handed out on October 1. Those who opted to use Octopus will get HK$2,000 in October and the last HK$1,000 on the 16th of the month after their cumulative spending has reached HK$4,000.

Shiu said businesses told him that foot traffic increased by more than 30 per cent on Sunday, and that sales were “satisfactory.” He said shops selling electronic goods had fewer customers comparatively but business was already better than the week before.

Practice of dining out

A restauranteur said the catering sector also saw nearly 15 per cent more business on Sunday. Speaking on the same RTHK programme, Simon Wong, who heads the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants & Related Trades Limited, said the situation in the afternoon was better than that at night.

Mother's Day CE Election Chinese restaurant yum cha drink tea Cantonese restaurant teahouse
Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP

“Especially for dim sum restaurants and eateries of small and medium sizes, business was quite satisfactory during lunch hours. But when it came to dine-in during evening hours, [it] slowed down a bit,” Wong said.

“Over the past two months, the economy was not that good, the unemployment rate was quite high and people’s income was reduced – so when they go out, they are more conscious of their spending or tend to spend less,” he added.

Wong said it would have been better if the HK$5,000 had been disbursed in one batch as the larger lump sum would encourage people to spend more or opt for more luxurious dining experiences. A number of factors had affected evening trade, Wong said, such as people getting used to eating at home, the limits on the number of people per table and the recent steady rise in Covid-19 infection numbers – all of which deterred people from dining out at restaurants.

Be aware of discounts

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog meanwhile reminded the public to pay close attention to the terms and conditions of discounts offered in association with the use of consumption vouchers.

consumption voucher gov
Photo: GovHK.

Also speaking on RTHK, Consumer Council Chief Executive Gilly Wong said consumers should check whether the discounts offered by the shops were “genuine,” especially when buying more expensive goods.

“In the past, we have seen the so-called discounts offered by shopping malls or stores were not that different from those offered when there was no consumption voucher. So you do not necessarily get a greater discount by using the voucher.”

Wong also warned the public of “over-consumption” and spending the consumption voucher on items of extremely high value or services that require pre-payment, as there could be risks of businesses closing down.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.