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HK malls strive for mainland shoppers

Hong Kong shopping malls are leaving no stone unturned to attract cash-rich mainlanders to their stores during the Lunar New Year holidays.


From producing and airing fashion programs on Beijing's TV channels to promoting their own brands on the mainland's radio stations, Hong Kong's retail market is going all out to ensure shoppers from the mainland fly down and dig deep into their pockets this festive season.


The Hong Kong Tourism Board said it expected a 10 percent increase in arrivals from the mainland during the Chinese New Year.


About 655,000 mainlanders visited Hong Kong during last year's spring break.


A total of 16.6 million people from the mainland went to Hong Kong in the whole of last year. The figure constituted about 55 percent of the total arrivals.


According to rough estimates, mainlanders comprise of 12 to 30 percent of the total customer base in local shopping malls.


High-end shopping mall Elements recently co-produced a fashion program with a TV station in Beijing, in which popular hosts spoke of latest trends and encouraged mainland viewers to shop at the mall for branded clothing.


APM, a mall managed by the Sun Hung Kai real estate agency, adopted a similar approach. It organized interviews of its store managers on the mainland's radio stations to talk about the positive side of shopping at APM.


"Travelers from the mainland are confident that Hong Kong can offer them a lot more choices (of clothing and goods) at a cheaper price," said APM's leasing general manager Maureen Fung.


Harbour City, the biggest mall in Hong Kong, took advantage of its size to house many flagship stores and brands, which made their debut in the city.


"Shopping malls are just like tourist spots. People want to pay a visit whether they intend to buy anything or not. Once they're in the mall, it's our job to ensure they like the products enough to spend on them," said Canis Lee, Harbour City's assistant general manager.


To make it even "more convenient" for shoppers, malls are even going to the extent of providing transport facilities to and from the airport.


Elements has arranged a free shuttle service from the mall to the Shenzhen Baoan Airport for its customers.


APM, too, has arranged for airport shuttle service and free coupons for tour groups from the mainland led by the Guangdong People's Government during the festival.


Betty Leong, the chief development manager of the MTRC mall, said a mainlander once "spent over HK$1 million" on a single visit to the mall.


"We know mainlanders have money and they want to spend," she said.


APM's Maureen Fung said: "Travelers from the mainland are essential for the Hong Kong retail market at least for the next 10 years due to their strong consumption power. So we will do all that we can to get them to our mall."


(China Daily February 1, 2009)