A new beginning: Sa sa ready to ‘put COVID-19 issues behind’ as Chinese tourists return

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Sa Sa says the return of Chinese travellers to Hong Kong and Macau heralds a “promising start” to the new financial year. [Sa Sa]
Sa Sa says the return of Chinese travellers to Hong Kong and Macau heralds a “promising start” to the new financial year. [Sa Sa]

Related tags beauty retail Hong kong China COVID-19 Consumer trends Sa Sa International

Beauty retailer Sa Sa International says the return of Chinese travellers to Hong Kong and Macau heralds a “promising start” to the new financial year.

Sa Sa recorded 30.3% sales increase to HKD1.09bn (USD138m) in the fourth quarter (Q4) thanks to the return of Chinese travellers in Hong Kong and Macau.

The Hong Kong-based firm announced the financial results of the three months ending March 2023 on April 18. Compared to its pre-pandemic 2018/2019 fiscal year, the sales recovered by 54.4%.

Chairman and CEO Dr. Simon Kwok attributed the performance boost to the return of travellers from China, noting that compared to the previous quarter, sales in Hong Kong alone increased by 30%.

“Daily retail sales in Hong Kong SAR during the period had increased by approximately 30% as compared with the previous quarter, benefiting from the return of Mainland tourists. In our core tourist stores, sales had recovered to approximately 70% against the pre-pandemic period,”​ said Kwok.

“We anticipate a promising start to the new financial year from 1 April 2023, as we put COVID-19 issues behind us.”

Boosted by tourist traffic

The firm noted that this trend was much more pronounced in Macau, where sales has recovered to almost 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

Hong Kong and Macau separately recorded year-on-year sales increase of 55.6% and 70.5% respectively. Together, year-on-year sales increased by 60.1% to HKD812.8m (USD103.5m).

Normal travel between Hong Kong SAR and Mainland China partially resumed from from January 8 and had fully resumed on February 6. Hong Kong SAR reported 500,000 and 1.5 million tourist visits in January and February respectively.

Kwok expressed optimism over the opening of the borders. “We expect the return of mainland visitors to continue at a gradual pace with an ongoing positive impact on our performance in Hong Kong SAR.”

He added: “We have been preparing for Hong Kong SAR border reopening adopting agile management practices including, extending store opening hours, refreshing the product mix, flexibly adjusting frontline staff deployment and inventory to cope with the increasing demand after tourists return.”

The group also saw positive news from Malaysia, where sales grew by 16.4% to HKD72.6m (USD9.2m) The group said Malaysia is sustaining its recovery at 79.3% of pre-pandemic levels despite a decrease of 11 stores

On the contrary, China reported sales decrease of 19.9% to HKD61.4m (USD7.8m) this quarter, which the firm attributed to its decision to shutter 33 “loss-making stores”​ to help narrow its overall losses from July to December 2022.

Furthermore, online sales dropped off by 22.3% year on year to HKD138.6m (USD17.7m) as the firm recorded declines in both China and Hong Kong by 33.2% and 20.4% respectively.

Moving forward, the group said it would continue to enhance its product and service offerings with a focus on its online-merge-offline (OMO) strategy.

This follows the news that Sa Sa is planning to make a comeback to Singapore’s retail scene, after it shuttered all 22 stores three years ago and moved its business online to e-commerce marketplace Shopee.

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