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Provisional statistics of retail sales for January 2015
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     The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released the latest figures on retail sales today (March 3).

     The value of total retail sales in January 2015, provisionally estimated at $46.6 billion, decreased by 14.6% compared with the same month in 2014. The revised estimate of the value of total retail sales in December 2014 decreased by 4.0% from a year earlier.

     After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales in January 2015 decreased by 13.9% from a year earlier. The revised estimate of the volume of total retail sales in December 2014 decreased by 1.4% from a year earlier.

     In interpreting the figures for January, it should be noted that retail sales tend to show greater volatility in the first two months of a year due to the timing of the Lunar New Year. Local consumer spending normally attains a seasonal high immediately before the Festival. As the Lunar New Year fell on February 19 this year but on January 31 last year, the year-on-year comparison of the figures for January 2015 with those for January 2014 might have been affected by this factor to a certain extent.

     Analysed by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of value of sales and comparing January 2015 with January 2014, and also bearing in mind the effect due to the difference in the timing of the Lunar New Year as mentioned above, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 21.4% in January 2015 compared with a year earlier. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (-12.8% in value); commodities in supermarkets (-13.1%); commodities in department stores (-11.3%); medicines and cosmetics (-0.1%); food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (-8.7%); other consumer goods, not elsewhere classified (-10.5%); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (-44.1%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (-19.0%); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (-3.3%); fuels (-21.4%); Chinese drugs and herbs (-9.6%); and optical shops (-5.6%).

     On the other hand, the value of sales of electrical goods and photographic equipment increased by 1.3% in January 2015 compared with a year earlier. This was followed by sales of motor vehicles and parts (+6.1% in value); and furniture and fixtures (+5.9%).

     Based on the seasonally adjusted series, the value of total retail sales increased by 0.7% in the three months ending January 2015 compared with the preceding three-month period, while the volume of total retail sales increased by 2.5%.

     These retail sales statistics measure the sales receipts in respect of goods sold by local retail establishments and are primarily intended for gauging the short-term business performance of the local retail sector. They cover consumer spending on goods but not on services (such as those on housing, catering, medical care and health services, transport and communication, financial services, education and entertainment) which account for about 50% of the overall consumer spending. Moreover, they include spending on goods in Hong Kong by visitors but exclude spending outside Hong Kong by Hong Kong residents. Hence they should not be regarded as indicators for measuring overall consumer spending.

     Users interested in the trend of overall consumer spending should refer to the data series of private consumption expenditure (PCE), which is a major component of the Gross Domestic Product published at quarterly intervals. Compiled from a wide range of data sources, PCE covers consumer spending on both goods (including goods purchased from all channels) and services by Hong Kong residents whether locally or abroad. Please refer to the Census and Statistics Department publication "Gross Domestic Product (Quarterly)" for more details.

Commentary

     A government spokesman noted that the notable year-on-year decline in retail sales in January 2015 was partly due to the distortion arising from the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year, which fell in mid-February this year but in late January last year. As such, it would be more meaningful to examine the retail sales figures for January and February combined for a clearer picture of the underlying trend, when available.

     Looking ahead, the near-term performance of retail sales will continue to hinge on the labour market conditions and inbound tourism growth. We also need to closely monitor the potential impacts on local consumption sentiment brought by various uncertainties in the external environment.

Further information

     Table 1 presents the revised figures on value index and value of retail sales for all retail outlets and by broad type of retail outlet for December 2014 and the provisional figures for January 2015.

     Table 2 presents the revised figures on volume index of retail sales for all retail outlets and by broad type of retail outlet for December 2014 and the provisional figures for January 2015.

     Table 3 shows the movements of the value and volume of total retail sales in terms of the year-on-year rate of change for a month compared with the same month in the preceding year based on the original series, and in terms of the rate of change for a three-month period compared with the preceding three-month period based on the seasonally adjusted series.

     The classification of retail establishments follows the Hong Kong Standard Industrial Classification (HSIC) Version 2.0, which is used in various economic surveys for classifying economic units into different industry classes.

     More detailed statistics are given in the Report on Monthly Survey of Retail Sales. Users can download this publication free of charge at the website of C&SD (www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp320.jsp?productCode=B1080003).

     Users who have enquiries about the survey results may contact the Distribution Services Statistics Section of C&SD (Tel: 2802 1258; email: [email protected]).

Ends/Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:30

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