Shopping, how Macau dwarfed Hong Kong

In just a few years, Macau has become a giant shopping mall with all the luxury brands on display. Often at the expense of Hong Kong. Studies say that tourists spend little because they spend little time here. 

MB July 2020 Special Report | Crossroads of Macau tourism

Halewinner Watches Group, through its main brand Unique Timepieces, gained fame in Hong Kong as one of the leading luxury watch retailers representing more than 30 renowned watch brands from Switzerland and all over the world. 

In the past 10 years, the group has reduced its stores in Hong Kong to three, opening 18 in Macau. 

The case of Halewinner – one among many – is relevant for two reasons: it shows the strength of Macau in offering luxury products and how this has been achieved at the expense of Hong Kong, traditionally the high-end shopping Mecca in Southeast Asia. 

No wonder, therefore, that among the main conclusions of the book “Entertainment Tourism” (2018), by Jian Ming Luo (City University of Macau) and Chi Fung Lam (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) is that “shopping” was the most popular product among more than 300 tourists surveyed. 

Only then do casinos appear, and thirdly shows like magic performances. 

At this point our reader is probably asking: is shopping a more popular attraction than casinos in Macau? 

Yes, as the official chart also shows (DSEC statistics). 

There is, of course, a problem with the responses of many tourists who have trouble saying that their main purpose is to come to gamble in Macau, but even if it moves to second place the impact of the shopping is undeniable – something that 20 or even 10 years ago (when the first resorts in Cotai were opening), was unthinkable. 

Just compare with what happens in Las Vegas to see the phenomenon: visitors to Macau spent much on shopping (US$114.06) although they were only day trippers, compared to $149.29 spent by visitors to Las Vegas in four days. 

Visitors in Las Vegas stayed for 4.4 days, and spent about $315 on food and drinks, $154.6 on shopping and $49.84 on shows and entertainment in 2018. For Macau, they stayed for 1.2 days, and spent about $50 on food and drinks and $117.8 on shopping in 2018, (data from Macau Statistics and Census Service, and Las Vegas Visitor Profile Report from Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, compared by Professor Carlos Siu Lam, Macau Polytechnic Institute, for Macau Business.) 

According to the research paper Characteristics of Visitor Expenditure in Macau and their Impact upon its Economic Growth (2018), shopping occupies the largest proportion of per capita spending of visitors, (“in accord with the characteristics of contemporary mainstream consumption culture from the perspective of the consumer society.”) 

Every MOP1 of visitor expenditure can create MOP7, 896-worth of additional gross domestic product (GDP) in Macau, conclude the authors, Wang Jingwen and Liang Mingzhu, from Jinan University. Local food products, jewels and watches, and clothing occupy the three main shopping magnets. The consumption amounts of cosmetics and perfume and handbags and shoes are slightly lower than other categories. Individually, state the authors, local food products and cosmetics and perfume maintain a rising trend in fluctuation. Jewels and watches, and handbags and shoes however, present an obvious declining trend since 2014. 

“Undoubtedly, the long stay of visitors will increase visitor expenditure. Moreover, long-haul travellers may have relatively low price sensitivity, which in turn may lead to their higher expenditure,” the authors conclude.