The decision last week to restrict Shenzhen residents to only one visit to Hong Kong per week in a bid to reduce parallel trading has had little to no impact on sales.
The new policy, issued by the Shenzhen municipal government, was expected to cut the number of visitors to Hong Kong by around 30 percent.
Initially, the idea of restricting visits to Hong Kong was designed to deflate tension over parallel traders, who buy various cheap goods in Hong Kong with a plan to resell them over the border.
However, the policy remains unsuccessful. Still, suitcases and shopping trolleys rammed with instant noodles, medication and baby milk formula continue to make their way from Hong Kong to Shenzhen.
Parallel trading is becoming an increasing concern in Hong Kong. Over the weekend, 16 men and 17 women were arrested for breaching their conditions of stay by participating in suspected parallel trading in various neighborhoods in the Northern district, which border Shenzhen.
According to Last month, 33 angry Hong Kong residents, including a 13-year-old-boy, were arrested in a protest against mainland shoppers’, who have been blamed for voracious buying habits that distort the local economy.
However, the full effect of the new policy is not likely to be felt for six to nine months, and visitors from Shenzhen in Hong Kong recently seemed unperturbed by the new move.
Shenzhen resident Shirley Tung had no problem with the decision, as she was not a regular visitor. “In fact I am happy. Hong Kong used to be quite clean, it’s dirtier now,” she said.
Fellow shopper Daisy Song saw no reason to apply for the new permit. “Since I am not a parallel trader, what’s the purpose of visiting so often?” she said.
But some Yuen Long residents were unconvinced by the new measure.
“Limiting their trips to once a week will not work … If more people are attracted, then we are back to the original situation,” said Y.K. Chan, who has lived in the town for a decade.
Pharmacists in the area said they had noticed little impact yet, but one worried fewer mainlanders would come in the long run.
An employee of Yee Kin Medicine said, “I am not disappointed but angry. Fewer people coming means less business, and less business means less money”.
Falling rent prices for pharmacies and shops selling daily necessities could offset this. Joe Lin, executive director of rental services for CBRE, said that rents for such places could fall 20 to 30 per cent.
It appears only time will tell if Shenzhen’s new policy will be effective. For now though, the speculation remains that maybe it’s just too little too late.
By Freya Twigden