Fallout from Yuen Long attacks hurting mom and pop shops, big brands alike

Apple and Chow Tai Fook were among the retailers affected by the recent unrest. Photos via Facebook and Flickr/DavidSandoz.
Apple and Chow Tai Fook were among the retailers affected by the recent unrest. Photos via Facebook and Flickr/DavidSandoz.

Fears of further violence in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun following Sunday night’s vicious attacks by white-clad thugs is putting a damper on local businesses and international chains alike — and not just in the New Territories.

HK01 reported today that the vast majority of retail businesses in Tuen Long and nearby Tuen Mun had closed yesterday amid rumors that the white-shirted men who brutally beat protesters, journalists, and bystanders at Yuen Long MTR on Sunday would reprise their attacks.

But the effects weren’t just limited to the immediate area, with brands like Apple and the ubiquitous jewelry retailer Chow Tai Fook closing all of their branches early across Hong Kong out of heightened fears of violence, particularly against employees who might be traveling home to the affected areas.

Local shops in Yuen Long and Tuen Mun that remained open, meanwhile, suffered a severe blow to business, with a Chinese restaurant manager telling HK01 that his business had seen tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for the day — an estimated drop of some 40 percent.

Even major financial institutions like HSBC, Hang Seng, and Bank of China closed up early at their branches in Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, and Tseun Wan, where protesters trashed the offices of pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho after he was filmed glad-handing men linked to the attacks at the MTR station.

The more immediate impacts on business came after a recent joint report by KPMG and the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA) predicted a double-digit drop in sales this year.

Annie Yao Tse, chairman of HKRMA, told HK01 that the early closure of stores yesterday would impact sales directly, but that it was too early to determine the effect of a single incident on the broader retail landscape. Still, she added, the city’s ongoing political turmoil was tarnishing Hong Kong’s image as a safe city and shopping haven.

Indeed, at least one of the luxury brands that tourists flock to Hong Kong to buy said it was feeling the pinch of the recent unrest. Richemont, the owners of the Cartier brand of high-end timepieces, cited the protests as the cause of a drop in sales in Hong Kong last quarter, despite rising sales across the rest of Asia, according to the BBC.

The ongoing street protests, initially sparked by opposition to a bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China, have since evolved into a movement calling for universal suffrage, a halt to sliding freedoms, and investigations into police’s use of force following heavy-handed responses to previous protests.

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