As Violence Increases in Hong Kong, How Worried Should Luxury Brands Be?

What happened: 

Today marked “a day of violence and anger in Hong Kong,” as reported by the New York Times. The protestors had planned an all-day strike to commemorate the death of a student protestor that fell from a parking garage during last week’s protests. The day, however, started with more bad news: two protesters were shot by policemen, both seriously hurt but alive. And by the afternoon, things just kept spinning out of control: during a verbal dispute, a middle-aged man was doused with gas and set on fire by a group of violent protestors, and then footage of the police running over some protestors surfaced online, seemingly setting the whole city off in anger.

Jing Daily witnessed first-hand as the protests exploded in Central, the business district in Hong Kong, where investment bankers, lawyers, and accountants work and normally crowd the streets. It was a surreal scene. Under luxury malls and boutiques and billboards, protestors marched and chanted on the streets, as police fired warning shots in the air, while businessmen in suits quickly walked by. Until today, the protests had taken place on the weekend, when districts like Central were less crowded, but that has now changed — which speaks about how serious the protests and the situation in Hong Kong has become.

Bottom line:

Brands should be aware of the increasingly violent situation in Hong Kong and prepare emergency backup plans, as the six-month-long protests only seem to be growing more and more violent. And now, beyond disrupting businesses, the protests have directly impacted the retail market as well. Many luxury brands have been taking a wait-and-see approach until the end of the year to renegotiate retail spaces or possibly shut down. But some have reacted quicker. Both Prada and TAG Heuer closed their stores in Hong Kong’s retail heart, Causeway Bay, and the Chinese apparel group, EPO, also announced that they would temporarily withdraw from the market until things settled down. The question now, perhaps, is how many more luxury brands will follow suit and shutter stores until the escalating and unstable situation comes to — hopefully — a peaceful resolution.

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