Hong Kong Retail Rents Remain Sky-High Despite Slowdown

Hong Kong's Causeway Bay shopping area. (Shutterstock)

Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay shopping area. (Shutterstock)

Even as slumping sales force luxury brands renegotiate retail rent prices and close stores in Hong Kong, a new report finds that it’s still the second-priciest place in the world to open up shop.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s newly published “Main Streets Across the World” report, Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay area retained its second-place rank after New York’s 5th Avenue as the most expensive retail location globally this year. Causeway Bay retail rent cost an average of US$2,399 per square foot a year, an amount far above the next-highest cost on Paris’ Avenue des Champs Élysées, which came in at US$1,372 per square foot. However, a continued retail sales slump driven by fewer mainland tourists could drop its ranking next year as top luxury brands rethink their Hong Kong strategies.

The listing comes in spite of several Hong Kong store closings by luxury retailers over the past year that include Coach’s Queens Road Central flagship and TAG Heuer’s Causeway Bay store. Many companies such as Burberry—which is reducing the size of its largest store in Hong Kong—have said they are attempting to renegotiate their rent prices. These include Kering, Prada, and Chow Tai Fook, and more store closings may follow depending on negotiations.

The report notes that “downward pressure on rents is becoming increasingly evident on the back of weaker retail sales and the slowing in tourist arrivals.” As a result, rents in Causeway Bay fell by 12 percent year-on-year for the period ending in June 2015, while Central, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Mongkok fell by between 11.9 and 13.9 percent.

Shanghai was the only other location in Greater China to make the list of 65 locations, with West Nanjing Road moving up to 11th place from 12th place last year. Tokyo’s Ginza district and Seoul’s Myeongdong area—both top destinations for Chinese tourists—also ranked high on the list at 7th and 8th, respectively.

Mainland China is on course to become the world’s largest retail market by 2018, although brick-and-mortar growth is slowing as e-commerce becomes more popular. The report notes that retailers in both Shanghai and Beijing are testing out ways to become “lifestyle destinations” through strategies such as the introduction of food and beverage options. They’re also embracing O2O marketing with special mobile shopping apps and free in-store WiFi. Retail growth is expected to be especially strong for retailers geared toward the middle class as the luxury market remains in slowdown mode, according to the report.

Because of Tokyo’s success from the influx of Chinese tourists, the report predicts that rents are likely to go up for luxury retailers in the coming year as brands like Burberry, Moncler, and Brunello Cucinelli have pursued store expansion in key shopping districts. In addition to the posh Ginza district, retail rent went up by 20 percent in the Omotesando area over the past year.

There is a silver lining to the Hong Kong slump, according to the report. It states that Hong Kong’s retail scene is now becoming a “more tenant-friendly environment,” and lower rent levels “will create opportunities for luxury brands and high street retailers to enter the market such as Monica Vinader, Sotheby’s Wine, Claudie Pierlot, Rebecca Minkoff, Perrin Paris, and Filson.”

 

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