Email this article
SCED's speech at the 24th Anniversary Ball of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma, at the 24th Anniversary Ball of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association tonight (November 21):

Bankee (Chairman of HKRMA), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Anniversaries are times of celebration and reflection, of assessing experience and accepting congratulations. So please allow me to congratulate you on the 24th anniversary of your association, which has played a vital role in representing Hong Kong's retail industry through a remarkable period of economic growth.

Retail industry and tourism in Hong Kong

     By all measures, Hong Kong's economic performance is encouraging this year, with our gross domestic product recording growth at 6.6% in real terms for the second quarter, and an average of 6.1% for the first six months. In combination with this, total retail sales this year, up to September, has increased by 11.2% over the same period in 2006, and sales volume rose by 9%. Given that the retail industry employs 8.4% of the local work force, this is an important boost.

     An interesting observation can be made from the figures I just quoted - there has been little growth in sales of staples such as food this year. The most spectacular growth, around 15%-23%, occurred in sales of electrical goods, photographic equipment, jewellery and gifts. These are items often purchased by tourists. The inclusion of jewellery in this abbreviated list should also indicate that at least some of these purchases have been made by Mainland tourists, who now comprise more than half of our total visitor arrivals.

     I am sure you will agree that the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement with the Mainland, especially the Individual Visit Scheme, has been a boon for your industry, especially since renminbi transactions have been possible in major retail outlets. Overall, Hong Kong has benefited a great deal from its ever closer relationship with the Mainland, and I am proud to say that we are playing an important role in our country's economic miracle.

     But like any economic miracle, a great deal of hard work is being done behind the scenes, both by people like you and by the Government in partnership with you. Your efforts, from product selection to ensuring quality salesmanship, have ensured that Hong Kong deserves its reputation as a "shopping paradise" by both Mainland and overseas tourists. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has found that over 80% of our visitors come here to shop first, and do everything else second. In 2006, total visitors' spending amounted to over $110 billion, a growth of over 12% compared with 2005.  

Enforcement and Regulation by the tourism industry

     This year, the much publicised incidents of traders taking advantage of Mainland visitors have been disturbing, though obviously limited to unscrupulous operators. Nevertheless, undue attention can be damaging. The Government, in collaboration with various organisations including the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the Consumer Council and the Mainland tourism authorities, are committed to combating malpractices in the travel agent trade and the retail sector; and promoting "honest tourism" to enhance the quality of our tourism services.

Consumer protection by regulations

     Vigilance is the key concept here - the Government is very much aware of the need to protect your gains so the industry can continue to expand. Industry growth, after all, is the key to our economic well-being. With this in mind we have conducted a review of consumer protection measures, consulting the industry on possible amendments to the Trade Descriptions Ordinance. The Hong Kong Retail Management Association was among the many trade bodies that gave us valuable feedback. We have taken into account the views and opinions collected and are finalising the proposals.

     The major thrust of the changes will be a refinement in the way that goods often sold to tourists can be described. Precious stones, for instance, will need to comply with specific criteria to be sold as diamonds or natural jade. With the law amended, a retailer can only sell and name the article as "diamond" if it is a genuine mineral diamond consisting of crystalline carbon of a specific form, and possesses specific properties as defined in the law.

     Cheaper but more popular commodities, including electronic products, are also included. To prevent misleading sales and malpractices, the proposed law requires retailers to impart core features of the products in sales invoices or receipts as they are issued. Along with other changes, these legislative adjustments will be introduced early next year.

Consumer Education

     Regulation is important in tourism, and equally important is to empower consumers to protect themselves. The Consumer Council has launched a new website, "Shop Smart in Hong Kong", in September this year, to provide Mainland visitors with the latest information and tips on shopping in Hong Kong. This will set a benchmark for the retail industry to follow and provide updated information on quality products for our visitors.

     As always the Government will seek to balance the need for consumer protection against the maintenance of a healthy business environment. And for the retail industry, that environment is certainly in good condition. The Service Retailer of the Year and Service and Courtesy Award that will be presented later tonight are evidence of that. By encouraging yourselves to upgrade standards and services, you are pushing the economy ahead for us all.

     In closing, I would like to thank you for listening because you must be impatient to get things underway. I hope you thoroughly enjoy your time tonight: anniversaries are grand occasions, and you have much to celebrate.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Issued at HKT 20:30


Print this page