Exhibitors yesterday offered huge discounts to lure shoppers on the final day of the 24-day retail fair at Victoria Park amid the economic downturn and fewer mainland visitors.
The Chinese Manufacturers' Association, organizer of the 50th Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, said sales totaled around HK$900 million this year the same as the previous year. But several exhibitors disputed this, saying they had recorded falls of 15 to 20 percent in sales.
Eikowada sales and marketing manager Leung Wai-leung said sales of outdoor clothing and apparel had dropped 20 percent despite a 50 percent discount on down jackets.
"Last year, around 20 percent of our customers were from the mainland, many of whom spent several thousands of dollars each," he said. "But this year, just 1 percent were mainland customers."
He also said the warm winter was partly to blame. "We didn't expect such a warm winter, and it was too late to change the order when we knew about it."
An exhibitor who targeted local customers was also pessimistic about sales.
"People are really reluctant to spend money, and we had to try extra hard to convince them," said Merck promoter Boie Chan Wai.
Dried seafood was probably the most popular item at the expo, with the On Kee Dry Seafood booth packed with customers who scrambled to buy abalone priced at HK$238 a bag. Other preferred the buy- three-get-one-free offer.
Operations manager Mandy Li Lai-man said sales were up 10 percent and stock was almost cleared by the afternoon.
Last minute bargain hunters with trolleys and suitcases had been waiting outside the expo before it opened at 11am.
An elderly woman surnamed Chan said she had arrived at 7am as she wanted to buy a pillow that was going for HK$9.
"I heard about the HK$9 pillow the day before and that's all I bought at the expo," she said.
Chinese Manufacturers' Association president Eddy Li Sau-hung said exhibitors had offered gifts to attract visitors, but some of the 400 exhibitors had been affected by the weather and the market conditions.
A smaller version of the expo, with about 200 booths, will be set up in the Macau Fisherman's Wharf Convention and Exhibition Centre on March 25 to 27.