Learning English through Social Issues

In recent years, the number of small independent stationery shops in Hong Kong has fallen.

  • Write a news report for the Hong Kong Post.
  • Explain this trend and discuss whether independent stationery shops can survive.

The Fate of Independent Stationery Shops

In recent years, there is a growing trend that a number of independent stationery shops have closed down. Due to the continuing increase in rent, they can no longer sustain and survive. The high rental costs push them out of business.  

Cheung Pak, aged 70, is a stationery shopkeeper and has run the business for a long time at the street corner in Kwun Tong. His store is tiny and filled up with stacks of second-hand books despite stationery products. He is going to shut down his stationery shop at the end of this month. “I have run the business for half a century in this district. My small business relies heavily on the community. In the past, many students would come to our store to buy second-hand textbooks, stationery and toys. Nowadays, they go to bookstore chains instead. I can barely compete against the giant.” 

Trouble never comes singly. Despite the fierce competition from the chain store, rent is another major problem.  “Kwun Tong, being one of the oldest district, has been under significant change recently. As the neighbourhood is being turned into shopping malls and commercial complex, the rent has risen sharply. This year, the landlord has asked for HK$30,000 as opposed to HK$20,000 last year. I have bargained with the landlord several times in an attempt to achieve a win-win deal on the rent. However, we fail to come to a satisfactory deal. I can no longer afford such a high rent. Sad to say, only the international luxury brands can afford the asking rent. Many small businesses have already been squeezed out. As the lease is soon going to expire, I decide to close the business for good.”

Despite soaring rents, another major reason why Cheung Pak shut down his business is because of the redevelopment project conducted by the urban renewal authority. Kwun Tong is under the planning of revitalization, which means that the old buildings will be demolished and make way for modern and urban housing estate. “Many small businesses in the district have already been forced to close their doors because of the plan. I will also face the same destiny under the big change. The environment will no longer be the same. There is just no room for survival in the plan. Like Lee Tung Street in Wan Chai, no shops are allowed to survive.”

As the city is changing rapidly, many small businesses like Cheung Pak’s cannot survive the change. “It is hoped that the Government will put itself into our shoes and help preserve the cultural heritage when they are to modernize the old districts.”

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