Opinion

George Chen

Winners and losers as Hong Kong rents scale new heights

George Chen
Oct 27, 2011 05:52 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

When you walk around Hong Kong’s Central commercial and business district these days, you may notice a number of stores are holding “removal sales”, which means they can no longer remain in the same location. The reason? In most cases, just blame soaring rents.

Many analysts have forecast declines in residential and commercial property prices in Hong Kong for next year, although at a stable pace rather than a sharp drop. This may be true for some suburban areas where purchase options are more plentiful than those in downtown areas, but until that happens, prices are likely to keep rising, at least for the rest of the year.

A couple of years ago, mobile phone industry leader Nokia took a moderately sized space on Russell Road in Causeway Bay just opposite Times Square, one of the busiest shopping districts in Asia, for its flagship store in Hong Kong. Local media said the store used to be one of Nokia’s busiest in Asia, thanks to mainland Chinese travelers. But the good old days are going to end soon.

The Hong Kong Economic Times reported on October 27 that British luxury brand Burberry had signed a new lease with the owner of a site currently occupied by Nokia. Burberry is said to have agreed to pay HK $6.5 million (about US $836,600) per month for the two-floor 5,200 square foot space,versus the HK $1.8 million that Nokia is paying.

When the news came out, the reaction from the market was quite naturally, “Wow”. One reader on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular micro-blogging service, wondered: “How many coats and bags will Burberry need to sell to cover the monthly rent?” In Hong Kong, a coat or bag at Burberry usually sells for about HK $10,000-15,000. You can do your own calculations.

Inflation-hit Chinese go abroad to shop

George Chen
Jul 11, 2011 06:32 UTC

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

It’s been a month since my last column on Reuters.com as I have been on the road for a while.

When I travel in New York and London, my identity is more like that of a consumer with a dash of journalistic observation. People usually say Hong Kong is a shopping paradise but in my view, Hong Kong is no longer my favorite city for shopping. For U.S. fashion brands such as Cole Haan or Banana Republic, prices are much cheaper in New York. It’s the same for London if you’re a big fan of Burberry or Paul Smith.

The American people I know complain far less about the financial crisis than two or three years ago. Instead, some of them say they actually enjoy some of the benefits. Rents are cheaper. Food is cheaper. Transport companies are unable to raise ticket prices.

Ferragamo for Morgan Stanley, a good match?

George Chen
Dec 2, 2010 08:30 UTC
By George Chen The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Salvatore Ferragamo

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Hong Kong is a real shopping paradise where people in the financial industry apparently have privileges not just because they can probably afford to buy more top brands, but they can also buy them exclusively and at a discount, at least for this Christmas.

This week, an email from Italian luxury maker Salvatore Ferragamo, exclusively inviting Morgan Stanley staff in Hong Kong to join its pre-Christmas sale, has caught the attention of their jealous peers at rival banks.

With the exclusive invitation, a Morgan Stanley employee in Hong Kong could visit a store of Salvatore Ferragamo in the former British colony to buy its bags, shoes, belts or other luxury products at a special discount  before the items were put on sale for the public.

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