Although the Hong Kong government has introduced the Consumption Voucher Scheme, distributing HK$5,000 to eligible people, the retail market is still trying hard to recover from the damage inflicted by the reduction of tourists. The downturn has caused retailers to consolidate resources by merging and closing outlets. For instance, various well known fast moving consumer brands have closed many of their regional stores in Hong Kong and kept only the flagship boutiques open, with the intention of reducing costs. This has led to shops in prime locations being vacant.
Luxury brands are exploring creative ways to reach out to the new generation of customers by offering innovative e-commerce shopping experiences, many devised as a direct result of COVID-19 restrictions. For instance, several luxury and high-end brands are exploring the possibility of offering virtual watch, fragrance, jewellery and handbag viewing experiences through video calls with fashion advisors, allowing VIP clients who are unable to shop in store, to enjoy an exclusive one to one consultation. Other brands have created their own online shopping platforms, with the intention of opening an online-to-offline sales channel.
As Hong Kong relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions, we are seeing an improvement in retail sales, with many retail employers encouraging or even requesting employees to get vaccinated in the hope that business can continue as usual. We have been assisting a number of clients in respect of COVID-19 vaccination policies for their employees. Employers should bear in mind that the lawfulness and reasonableness of mandatory vaccinations and COVID-19 testing has not been tested in Hong Kong courts so far. Our view is that employers should take into account various legal principles when formulating vaccination/testing policies, such as whether the order constitutes a lawful and reasonable order from the employer, whether the requirement is reasonably practicable to ensure the safety and health at work of employees, whether there are discrimination concerns (especially with pregnant employees or those with long term illnesses) and data privacy.
Authored by: Tommy Liu and Katherine Tsang.