Where are the shoppers and the lines in front of luxury brand boutiques?
The Hong Kong retail industry is in a slump because its core customers, wealthy mainland Chinese are not coming in droves anymore. They either can't be bothered with the negative experiences they have in the city, or find better deals for luxury brands elsewhere like Europe.
So who has to make up for the slack? The local market. More than 10,000 shops, restaurants and tourist attractions are offering discounts or promotions to local residents.
In the HAPPY@hongkong Super Jetso campaign that starts April 27 to May28, shoppers can get coupons if they spend a certain amount of money, or special deals for locals staying in hotels here.
Tommy Li Ying-sang, convenor of the campaign, said he has not estimated how many businesses will be offering "locals only" promotions.
"Let me stress again that the principle [of the campaign] is to create a happy shopping atmosphere. We welcome both locals and tourists," he said.
Creating a happy atmosphere? How about making sure staff serve customers with a smile?
Hong Kong is one of three places in the world where customers are unlikely to see smiles on shop staff's faces in a survey of mystery shoppers.
The city was ranked 39 out of 41 countries in a "smiling index" of the service sector conducted by the Mystery Shopper Service Association last year.
Around 2,000 mystery shoppers visited shops around Hong Kong specializing in 40 different products and only found 48 percent of service staff smiled at them.
In the bottom three ranking, Hong Kong was ahead of South Korea at 47 percent, and Slovenia at 46 percent.
Meanwhile at the top was Ireland at an impressive 97 percent, followed by Greece and Puerto Rico sharing third spot at 93 percent.
When it came to greeting customers, Hong Kong was in second last place at 58 percent, and Macau at the bottom with 53 percent.
It's quite ironic that Hong Kong, which depends so heavily on the retail industry here and the customer service is appalling. Perhaps this is why Hong Kong's retail sales numbers are so bad?
Anders Wong Siu-leung, chief executive of the Hong Kong Mystery Shopper Service Association, said long working hours and pressure were among the reasons front line staff didn't smile.
How about it's because the hours are long and pay is not appealing so people treat it as a job than as a passion? Not many people in Hong Kong derive joy from serving others. But if service staff smiled more than maybe -- just maybe -- they'd ring up a few more sales?