Demographics and Culture of Hong Kong

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Shopping in Hong Kong has been categorised from a "social activity" to a "serious sport".[1][2] It is an important part of the culture and a way of life. Few cities in the world can rival the experience from an economic, business or social standpoint.


Kowloon Nathan Road 2007

Nathan Road shopping in Kowloon

Hong Kong's culture is very much dominated by consumerism. In the early Colonial Hong Kong period, the territory served as a middleman that sold far more than it consumed. Goods were largely sold via mobile hawker units or independent shops, with the majority of trade, utilities, shipping and manufacturing handled by the Hongs.[3] The establishment of banks and deposit institutions allowed people to accumulate savings, and expand their personal finances.

With significant manufacturing outputs, the economy turned around in the 1960s, setting the mall trends in motion. One of the first recognised modern shopping centres was Ocean Terminal. Daimaru opened the flood gate of Japanese goods to Hong Kong in 1966.[2] Deng Xiaoping's 1978 Open Door Policy also made Hong Kong the definitive gateway to China.[1] The people's mindset then begin to change from buying necessities to buying luxury goods.

Food and clothing supplies were always available for sale, but complex goods did not come about until the arrival of the major brand name franchises. In the 1970s and 1980s, items like air conditioners, fans and refrigerators were popular items that eased the hot climate. Major increases in consumer spending continued, due to the period of explosive economic growth.[4]

In the late 1970s, one of the first modern shopping development was The Landmark in Central above the MTR station.[2] In 1984, Cityplaza in Taikoo Shing was also redeveloped. A large architectural project at the time was also to connect Ocean Centre to the Harbour City shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui. The large mall construction movement continued into the 1990s with Pacific Place, Dragon Centre, Time Square, Plaza Hollywood and Festival Walk.[2] Developments also expanded into the New Territories.


File:Watch&ClockShop NathanRd HK.jpg

The Louis Vuitton branch in Hong Kong

CoCo Lee Ads in HK Wanchai

Aggressive marketing campaigns are common, this one features Coco Lee


Gadget shopping

Muji Store HK

Muji stores

Hong Kong is well known for the diversity of cuisines available. Ethnic foods ranging from Mexican favors to Indian dishes can be found easily. The Soho district in Central is the center for Western foods. Traditional Chinese cuisines, ranging from Shanghainese, Hainanese to Cantonese restaurants are also located everywhere. Street food vendors selling local snacks, such as dumplings with fish meat and snake soup bowl, can be found in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

Custom tailoring is also very popular and affordable in Hong Kong. You can draw out your own design for clothing and have it made in a few days. Although there are many Tailors in Hong Kong it is a profession in relative decline. This has been blamed on rent increases and low margins relative to ready-made shops.[5] A wide variety of electronics from Japan and Europe are available. A hot place for shopping for these appliances would be in Apliu Street and the Golden Shopping Center in Sham Shui Po. There are also many computer appliances centers in Wan Chai and Mong Kok.

In recent years, the Japanese pop culture has become prevalent in Hong Kong Shopping. Many Japanese department stores have opened in Hong Kong, such as Sogo, Yata, and Muji. Japanese clothing brands, like Swordfish, Moussy, and Uniqlo, have started flagship stores in the city. If you were looking for a bargain in clothing and accessories, the Lady’s Street and Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok or Jardine’s Crescent in Causeway Bay would be a good place to visit.

Hong Kong is the fourth largest exporter of jewelry in the world,[citation needed] mainly in the supply of jade and gold. Such vendors can be easily spotted on the street. Among the most common are Chow Seng Seng and Luk Fook Jewelry.[1]




Basic items for sale do not draw any duties, sales tax or import tax.[6] Only specific import goods such as alcohol, tobacco, perfumes, cosmetics, cars and petroleum products have associated taxes. For companies, there is a 17.5% corporate tax, which is lower than international standards.[1]

Its proximity to the manufacturing plants in China as well as being a free port provide the territory with significant advantages. Large quantities of goods are manufactured and transported from and to Hong Kong frequently. Imports from Europe, Japan, the United States and Taiwan add international flavour to the mix.


Convenience is a given, when most stores are tightly lined up next to one another in proximity. Tsim Sha Tsui alone offers more than 600 stores.[6] Similar statistics can be drawn from Central and numerous other areas. With its balance of international stores, shopping in Hong Kong could essentially mimic shopping around the world. Shopping selections are based on a wide scope, ranging from the most ancient to the most hi-tech goods.

Businesses do not always cater to high-end customers, as plenty of bargains attract regular shoppers. Transportation also eases the shopping experience, as the MTR subway and an effective taxi service allow anyone to get around without geographical knowledge or driver's license.

Other benefits include a mild winter climate during the two most critical shopping seasons at Christmas and the Chinese New Year.


Hong Kong is unique in the sense that the population is fully engaged in two very different languages.[citation needed] Having Cantonese derived from the Sino-Tibetan family and English from the Germanic languages family, the territory is capable of communicating with eastern or western shoppers. Merchants will find it handy to open branches in a bilingual territory. While one may argue the proficiency of English in some areas, Hong Kong, Macau, and India are the only regions on the GDP per capita top 50 list with a 50% stake in two very different language families. The law also guarantees that both Cantonese and English remain the official languages, so bilingual sales tags and sales people are common, especially in the areas frequented by tourists.

Cultural openness is also an important factor, as Hong Kong is receptive toward selling merchandise regardless of the origin. The government believes in a hands-off policy, and does not censor, restrict or modify. An example is authentic looking toy guns.

Hong Kong is trendy and moves at a hectically fast pace. One can go shopping at a particular place, only to return a few days later to find the store completely rearranged. To survive in the competitive environment, stores must stay current, not only in merchandise but presentation.


In the mix of competition, Hong Kong has a reputation for selling counterfeits and fakes. The mishap of paying for an item that turns out to be illegitimate is an ongoing problem. Items from bootleg CDs, clothing brands, watches to software have all been forged. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has introduced a plan to identify shops that offer a reliable service,[6] via a 300-page book called "A Guide to Quality Shops and Restaurants".[1] Divisions like ICAC have also taken part in the anti-corruption process. On the contrary, bargain hunting has been a controversial issue since local consumers often seek to buy imitation brand-named goods at well below market price value. However, in recent years, this problem has shifted to mainland China, where IP laws are not enforced as strongly and prices of these counterfeit products are even lower.

Warranties and return policies vary widely depending on stores. A majority will not allow refunds or exchanges if the items have been tampered with.[1]

Hong Kong is also known for its tourist traps where shops deploy tactics such as "bait-and-switch" to cheat tourists. This is where a very attractive price is given for a product and once the tourist pays, she/he is told that either the product is out-of-stock or that it doesn’t include all the accessories, such as the battery charger, connection cords, etc., that it is supposed to include. A substituted product would then be proposed at the same price when the substituted product is in fact an inferior and a much cheaper product. Shops with bright neon lights displaying only famous brands such as Canon, Nikon, Nokia, etc., as their shop name, often deploy this tactic so it is best to avoid these shops. Tourists are advised not to pay for the goods until they have seen and checked the product, including its warranty, to their full satisfaction. There is a price comparison website, ShopCite,[7] which can be used to check the prices of goods sold by large chain-stores and reputable shops in Hong Kong for general referencing.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Fallon, Stephen (2006). Hong Kong & Macau. Lonely Planet city guide (12th ed.). Footscray, Vic: Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74059-843-9. OCLC 62225842. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Mathews, Gordon; Lui, Tai-Lok (2001). Consuming Hong Kong. Hong Kong culture and society. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-546-1. OCLC 47638448. 
  3. Genzberger, Christine (1994). Hong Kong Business: The Portable Encyclopedia for Doing Business with Hong Kong. World Trade Press country business guides. San Rafael, Calif: World Trade Press. ISBN 0-9631864-7-7. OCLC 29467723. 
  4. Yu, Tony Fu-Lai (1997). Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Hong Kong. Routledge advances in Asia-Pacific business, 5. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16240-8. OCLC 36165215. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Barber, Nicola (2004). Hong Kong. Great cities of the world. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library. ISBN 0-8368-5038-6. OCLC 54544041. 
  7. Hong Kong Shopping Search

Shopping centres in Hong Kong
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