The fall in Hong Kong’s retail sales slowed in January but the overall outlook still looked miserable for some businesses on Thursday.

The city’s total retail sales for the month, provisionally

estimated at HK$43.6 billion, dropped by 6.5 per cent year on year, smaller than the fall of 7.8 per cent and 8.5 per cent in last November and December respectively.

Sales of jewellery, watches and other luxuries continued to dwindle in January while sales of durable goods such as cars, electronics and furniture, fell almost 20 per cent from the same time last year.

Thomson Cheng Wai-hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Retail Management Association – which represents more than 7,800 retail outlets in the city – said he feared the result for February would be far worse than January’s as the usual rise in sales powered by pre-Lunar New Year holiday spending was over.

“The February figure will be very unsatisfactory,” Cheng said. “Some of our members even felt the market had collapsed. Everyone is worried.”

A government spokesman said the fall reflected a “protracted slowdown in inbound tourism and also weakening local consumption sentiment amid the uncertain economic outlook”.

But Daniel Chong Wai-chung, chief executive of Yata, a department store chain specialising in Japanese food and products, said he was not worried about the outlook for the economy.

Bucking the overall downward market trend, Yata’s sales grew 5.4 per cent in the first two months of this year, compared to the same time last year, fuelled by a 25.5 per cent increase in sales of menswear plus a 5 per cent increase of sales in supermarkets.

“We expect we will continue to perform well in March,” said Chong, attributing his company’s good start to the year to a mix of factors including careful preparation, a cold January and strong demand during the Lunar New Year.

According to Chong, department stores and supermarkets – unlike jewellery and cosmetic stores – could weather the current “retail winter” because they sell a much broader range of products.

Adding he remained “cautiously optimistic” about the city’s retail sector, Chong said Yata had plans to add three more stores in Hong Kong in 2017.

“We don’t worry at all. We know continuing to yell ‘worry’ doesn’t solve the problem,” he said. “Ask what you can do on your own.”

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