Hong Kong has earned a reputation for being one of the world’s greatest shopping destinations. From mega-malls to night markets, whether you are looking for brand-name luxury goods, second-hand items or the latest techie gadgets, there is something to suit every taste and budget. Hong Kong is a duty free port that does not impose a general sales tax on goods. As a result, it is perceived to be a Mecca for shoppers. However, prices of goods in Hong Kong have been steadily rising over the years due to inflationary pressures caused by rising real estate prices as well as exceptionally strong demand from mainland Chinese buyers.
Store opening hours in Hong Kong vary tremendously across the board. The majority of retail shops are generally open every day from 10am to 10pm and street markets are usually open from 10am to 6.30pm with the exception of the night markets which stay open until late. In some of the busier shopping districts like Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mongkok, many stores stay open past 11pm and even until midnight. Shops in the Central district, however, tend to close their doors slightly earlier at approximately 9pm. Credit and debit card payments are widely accepted in Hong Kong’s larger shopping establishments though cash is king at street markets and roadside stalls.
Pre-eminent market for luxury goods
Hong Kong historically has been one of the world’s most prominent markets for luxury goods due to the general affluence of its local population. However, in recent years the demand for much of its luxury retail has been fueled by the growing prosperity of buyers from the Chinese Mainland. These mainland buyers come to Hong Kong on frequent shopping trips during which they tend to buy big ticket, luxury items with cash. As a result, many of Hong Kong’s merchants nowadays display a definite preference for buyers from the mainland.
Tips for Shopping in the markets and malls of Hong Kong
Shopping is a favorite pastime in Hong Kong, not only for tourists but also for locals. If you happen to be bitten by the shopping bug while stationed in Hong Kong it helps to be aware of some tips and tricks to successfully navigate your way through the various shopping locales in the city.
Bargaining in Hong Kong’s street markets and small local stores is quite acceptable. The general rule of thumb of bargaining here is that you should usually start off your negotiating process by halving the price that is initially quoted to you and then take it from there.
Displaying indifference while secretly coveting the product is yet another ploy most successful shoppers employ at Hong Kong’s street markets. At the bigger stalls and malls bargaining is much tougher though it does not hurt to ask the retailer for special offers or upcoming discounts. More often than not they are happy to oblige and supply you with the information.
Check your purchases
When shopping in some of the smaller, local stalls, it is always prudent to ensure that the item you have purchased is in full working order and meets the description and specifications expected of the product. Do not accept inferior goods at a lower price as these may cause more problems than they are worth. Before making payment, make sure that the manufacturer’s warranty cards are included and serial numbers on the box match those on the product.
Exchange & refunds
Shops are not obligated by law to exchange items or give refunds, although most shops will exchange the item if it is faulty and you have the original receipt. Remember to keep all the packaging, and avoid any wear and scratches, to make it easy to exchange.
Do your research
If you plan to buy big-ticket items (like electronics, watches, cameras) it is wise to do some comparison shopping at the city’s major chains or on the Internet. In recent years the price gap between the major chains and the local shops has narrowed, so it is generally advisable to buy from more established outlets when it comes to big-ticket purchases. This advice also holds true when you want to get clothes custom tailored at one of Hong Kong’s many tailoring outfits.
Shop at recognized QTS stores
The Hong Kong Tourism Board operates a Quality Tourism Service Scheme whereby it administers merchant establishments who are desirous of being accredited by the scheme. These shops have to pass strict annual assessments before they can display their Quality Tourism Services (QTS) credentials. When you shop at these stores, you can then be assured of good service standards as well as good quality of products. In such a competitive retail landscape, most retailers in Hong Kong try to meet these stringent standards and get accredited by the Quality Tourism Service Scheme.
If you think you’ve been scammed
If you think you have been cheated or scammed you should head to the nearest police. The police in Hong Kong are generally very helpful, and will try to help as much as possible. There have been cases where the buyer has returned to the shop along with a policeman and been given a refund. A list of all police stations can be found at here: http://www.police.gov.hk/ppp_en/index.html. You can also lodge a complaint with the Hong Kong Consumer Council at http://www.consumer.org.hk.