(Bloomberg) -- Rents in Hong Kong’s prime shopping districts will fall sharply in 2020, as the city’s retail sales experience the worst contraction ever amid lingering anti-government protests, according to Knight Frank LLP.

Rents for street shops in areas including Central, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok will decline by 15% or more in the coming year, the biggest drop since 2013, said Helen Mak, a senior director at the property agency. “For foreign and local tenants, of course they have to be cautious when deciding whether to open stores now, which weighs on rents,” said Mak.

The gloomy forecast came a day after the government announced that retail sales by value contracted by a record 24.3% in October from a year earlier. Hong Kong has been crippled by months of pro-democracy protests that have sometimes paralyzed the city.

If it materializes, the fall in rents may erode Hong Kong’s position as the world’s most expensive retail rental market. Street shops in Causeway Bay charged the highest rents in the world in the third quarter, at $2,544 per square foot a year, despite the demonstrations that started in June, according to Cushman & Wakefield Plc.

Source: Cushman & Wakefield

To contact the reporter on this story: Shawna Kwan in Hong Kong at wkwan35@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katrina Nicholas at knicholas2@bloomberg.net, Marcus Wright

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