In many of the major cities of South-east Asia, 1974 has been the year of Christmas spending gloom ...
GV Lanterns for sale at street market
GV INT Judges look at Xmas lantern
CUTAWAY Crowds watching
CU Sign "I'm a Dancing Santa Claus" TILT UP TO lantern
GV Lanterns with flashing lights (3 shots)
Initials BB/0052 WM/MR/BB/0125
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: In many of the major cities of South-east Asia, 1974 has been the year of Christmas spending gloom ... rather than boom. Although a large proportion of the region's population is non-Christian, retail sales at this time of the year usually show a market increase. This year, there has been a sharp drop in spending.
In Hong Kong ... Asia's largest shopping centre ... businessmen have resorted to pre-Christmas bargain sales in an attempt to woo prospective customers. But the boost hoped for has not eventuated. Some department stores estimate sales are down 60 per cent.
Businessmen still haven't given up all hope. They think there's always the possibility of a last-minute buying spree.
In Singapore, where the population is predominantly Chinese, the Christmas trading picture is almost as gloomy. Soaring prices for goods, ranging from toys to turkeys, have resulted in an overall sales drop of 40 per cent.
Bangkok's Christian minority (around 180,000 people) have been restricting their activities to window shopping. Streets are packed ... but there are relatively few transactions int he stores.
The only real glimmer of hope is in the Philippines, where the Christmas season officially began on 16 December. The Philippines -- with 40 million Christians -- manages a blend of Spanish, American and native customs in the festivities.
This year, as well as healthy Christmas sale,s there has been a revival of folk traditions. One feature was a nation-wide Christmas lantern making competition, which attracted more than 2000 entries.
SYNOPSIS: Hong Kong ... South-East Asia's largest market place ... seems set for a gloomy Christmas.Inflation has hit all major cities in the region ... none more than Hong Kong. As a result the usual Christmas trading boom has to eventuated Instead, there's been a sharp drop in spending ... receipts this year are down as much as sixty percent on last year's.
Businessmen have resorted to discount sales in a desperate attempt to boost business. So far results have been discouraging. However, there's still come optimism about, with talk of a possible last minute buying spree.
Singapore's population is predominantly Chinese but despite this there is usually a upsurge in retail trade over Christmas. But not this year. The gloom has set in there too.
Soaring prices have hit all commodities ... from turkeys to toys. And despite a few individual bonanzas, shopkeepers report spending down by forty per cent.
In Bangkok too, christians are in the minority ... they number but one hundred and eighty thousand.
The city streets are packed with people ... but according to businessmen, they're not buying anything. Most seem content to window shop.
And While the adults gaze at goods they can't afford ... the children make the most of the free festive activities.
Manila, in the Philippines, provides some relief from the picture of gloom, painted by Southeast Asia's businessmen.
The island, where the forty million Christmas dominate, has experienced a revival in old Christmas customs. A Christmas lantern making competition, for instance, attracted two thousand entries.
Nonetheless ... the Madison Avenue approach is still evident in Manila, where the Christmas season officially began on 16 December.
And while native customs rub shoulders with American and Spanish influences along the archipelago ... shopkeepers in neighbouring countries anxiously eye their accounts, hoping for a sign that the last minute spree is not simply withful thinking.