New Mastercard Economics Institute Report Highlights Changes in Hong Kong’s Consumer’s Spending Habits

November 17, 2022 | HONG KONG
“Shifting Wallets” report indicates a blurring of lines between conventional weekend and weekday consumption as hybrid work sets in as the new normal

Amidst an ever-changing and unprecedented global economy, the choices consumers make in what, where and when they spend today may help reveal where we are headed next. The Mastercard Economics Institute’s “Shifting Wallets” report looks at how consumers in Hong Kong, along with those from Asia Pacific, are holding tight to habits that offer convenience, experience or both.

Asia Pacific has seen a sharp recovery in outbound travel following the re-opening of borders, despite the growing cost of air travel. This is notable in the Hong Kong market, where the demand has been growing since the implementation of the “0+3” quarantine policy. Equally, the recovery in experiences also continues to outpace things, reflected in the spending patterns for experiences including dining out or entertainment. Asia Pacific consumers are ordering from restaurants – both in-person or online – over making their own meals at home, with spending on restaurants up 16 percent in August 2022 from January 2022 levels, whilst grocery spending is down five percent.  

The report illustrated the blurring of lines from conventional weekend spending all over Hong Kong. With hybrid work being a new norm, the global trends of trading down and purchasing "just in time" as opposed to "just in case" – in other words, buying cheaper alternatives of goods as well as what consumers know they need – may explain an increase in grocery store transaction rates on Fridays and Wednesdays, which increased by more than 3 percent and 2.8 percent respectively from 2019.

The shift in spending from weekends to weekdays was also observed in Hongkongers’ share of spending at department stores on Saturdays and Sundays, which fell by 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent respectively, relative to 2019, while spending on Tuesdays rose by 2.8 percent.

However, in the field of cosmetics and beauty services, Hong Kong consumers are found to particularly purchase items under the category on Sundays. The recent transaction amount has increased by over 4 percent compared to 2019 – the largest increase across all consumption categories. It is also worth noting a trend of restaurants suffering on weekdays because of hybrid work while experiencing a boom on weekends, particularly on Sunday with a 2.8 percent increase on dining as consumers yearn to treat themselves after a long week.

As spending habits change, Mastercard continues to evolve its offers for consumers, with promotions such as Make Hong Kong Yours and Lang Kwai Fong Taste Traveler allowing Mastercard cardholders to enjoy more than 80 dining advantages in the city. In addition, over 100 offers and benefits on Priceless Specials are exclusive to Mastercard cardholders in entertainment, travel, wellness, fashion and transportation, among others.

“Consumers in Asia Pacific are looking to make up for lost time after a challenging few years,” said David Mann, Chief Economist of Mastercard AP & MEA. “The pent-up demand to see new places and experience new things is influencing consumer spend in a big way. With the ongoing prioritization of getaways, dining, entertainment, and experiences, we are expecting to see even more rebound in the travel and entertainment sectors.”

He added, “In addition, we’re seeing new opportunities for online businesses, as both goods and experiences spending shifts away from the weekends. As digital shopping and remote work continue to influence our daily habits, consumers will adjust and re-adjust their spending preferences to match the changing rhythm of our lives.”

Other highlights include:

When: Gone are designated days for spending. Working from home and the shift to digital have blurred the lines: date night is any night, and leisurely shopping trips are no longer limited to Saturday and Sunday. This has significant staffing and supply chain implications for retailers, restaurants, and other businesses.

  • Consumers in Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand have drifted away from weekend entertainment in 2022 as compared to 2019, beating the weekend crowd by going for weekday tickets and emptier theatres on Mondays and Tuesdays.
  • A similar effect was seen in retail-loving Singapore, where department store spending fell 2.8 percent and 2.5 percent on Fridays and Saturdays respectively, but increased 1.9 percent on Thursdays.
  • Conversely, eating places have seen a boom in weekend spend, with strong share shifts on Saturdays for Hong Kong, up 2.8 percent, Malaysia, up 2.1 percent, and Singapore, up 1.8 percent.

What: Consumers prioritize travel spending. Despite personnel shortages and a surge in crude oil prices pushing up the cost of air travel, spending on travel and experiences remains strong for consumers in APAC.

  • Singapore shows the greatest demand in APAC for international travel, with consumer flight bookings at more than 10 percent above 2019 levels as of June 2022, despite heightened logistical challenges and price pressures.[1]
  • In Australia, long haul flight bookings are up 92 percent in August 2022 compared to August 2019, and short haul flight bookings are up 155 percent.
  • Consumer spending in ASEAN is experiencing a recovery in the key categories of retail, travel and entertainment, with retail spend at 1.5x pre-pandemic levels as of June this year.

Where: Small businesses show gains in online services. Globally, large businesses dramatically outperform smaller ones in the shift to digital — but small online service providers in APAC are still finding ways to thrive.

  • In Singapore, small online business services—think tutoring, healthcare, and personal care services—rose over 3.5x compared to 2019.
  • However, the gap between large and small online businesses is particularly evident in the retail sector in more developed economies – e-commerce sales for Singapore’s large businesses grew 200 percent versus 59 percent for small online retailers in August 2022 compared to 2019. Similarly for Australia, large businesses grew 93 percent versus 24 percent for small online businesses.[2]

View the full Shifting Wallets: New consumer spending habits report here. Other reports from the Mastercard Economics Institute can be found here.  



This presentation and content are intended solely as a research tool for informational purposes and not as investment advice or recommendations for any particular action or investment and should not be relied upon, in whole or in part, as the basis for decision-making or investment purposes. This presentation and content are not guaranteed as to accuracy and are provided on an "as is" basis to authorized users, who review and use this information at their own risk. This presentation and content, including estimated economic forecasts, simulations, or scenarios from the Mastercard Economics Institute, do not in any way reflect expectations for (or actual) Mastercard operational or financial performance.

[1] Percentage change to international travel bookings in June 2022 vs the average of Q4 2019 as a baseline.

[2] Figures reflect aggregated & anonymized Mastercard switched volumes (nominal US dollars unadjusted for FX) for the month of August 2022. Reflects a cross-country average of small & medium-sized versus large retailers and service businesses across 22 countries. Small and medium-sized businesses derived by a proprietary classification model developed by the Mastercard Economics Institute.

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