Hong Kong tops New York as most expensive retail location

Hong Kong ended New York’s 11-year reign as the home of the world’s most expensive district for retailers as luxury-brand companies competed for space to sell goods to mainland Chinese tourists.

Average annual rents at Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island rose 35% to US$2,630 a square foot at the end of June from a year ago, Cushman & Wakefield Inc. estimates. Hong Kong overtook Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, while Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Elysees rose to third in a global ranking of 326 prime shopping locations published by the real estate broker today.

Causeway Bay landlords Wharf (Holdings) Ltd., Hysan Development Co. and Emperor International Holdings Ltd. (163) reported rising sales for their tenants as visitors from mainland China took advantage of tax-free shopping in Hong Kong. Tourist spending rose 18% to HK$138 billion ($17.8 billion) in the first nine months, the territory’s tourism board estimates, bolstered by a 31 percent increase in visitors from the mainland.

“New York and Hong Kong are slugging it out at the top,” Mark Burlton, a London-based partner at Cushman’s cross-border retail team, said in an interview. “The Chinese customer is helping float a lot of ships across the world,” prompting luxury stores in the main global shopping destinations to hire Chinese-speaking workers, he said.

Sa Sa International Holdings Ltd. (178), a Hong Kong-based cosmetics chain, in September leased a 1,000 square-foot (93 square-meter) street-level store on Lockhart Road for HK$850,000 a month, according to Midland Holdings Ltd., which handled the deal. That was more than double the amount paid by the previous tenant, the broker said.

Paris rose two places following a 30% increase in prime rents to $1,129 a foot as international retailers including Levi Strauss, Hugo Boss and Kusmi Tea opened or refurbished stores. Tiffany & Co. plans to open a 974 square- meter shop in the city in 2014.

The French capital’s higher ranking came at the expense of Tokyo’s Ginza district and Pitt Street in Sydney’s central business district, Cushman said. In both cases, rents stagnated.

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