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Provisional statistics of retail sales for March 2015
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     The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released the latest figures on retail sales today (May 5).

     The value of total retail sales in March 2015, provisionally estimated at $38.4 billion, decreased by 2.9% compared with the same month in 2014. The revised estimate of the value of total retail sales for January and February 2015 taken together decreased by 2.0% compared with the same period a year earlier. For the first quarter of 2015, total retail sales decreased by 2.3% in value compared with the same period in 2014.

     After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales in March 2015 increased by 0.8% over a year earlier. The revised estimate of the combined volume of total retail sales in January and February 2015 decreased by 0.3% compared with the same period a year earlier. For the first quarter of 2015, the volume of total retail sales remained virtually unchanged compared with the same period in 2014.

     Analysed by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of value of sales and comparing March 2015 with March 2014, the value of sales of electrical goods and photographic equipment increased by 2.8%. This was followed by sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (+4.0% in value); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (+88.4%); and books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (+2.3%).

     On the other hand, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 18.6% in March 2015 compared with a year earlier. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (-2.2% in value); commodities in supermarkets (-0.7%); commodities in department stores (-7.1%); medicines and cosmetics (-3.3%); other consumer goods, not elsewhere classified (-9.4%); motor vehicles and parts (-1.2%); fuels (-16.4%); furniture and fixtures (-6.8%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (-11.7%); Chinese drugs and herbs (-8.4%); and optical shops (-5.3%).

     Based on the seasonally adjusted series, the value of total retail sales decreased by 1.0% in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the preceding quarter, while the volume of total retail sales decreased by 0.8%.

     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 performance of retail sales remained sluggish in March. Most types of retail outlets recorded year-on-year declines in sales, conceivably reflecting the slowdown in inbound tourism. Retail outlets selling certain consumer durable goods saw some notable increases in sales, mainly helped by the launch of certain smartphone models.

     The retail sales performance in the near term is likely to be constrained by the weaker performance of inbound tourism, although the stable labour market conditions should still render support to local consumer sentiment. We need to monitor closely if the recent slowdown in retail business, together with the various uncertainties in the external environment, would affect the local economy and job creation down the road.

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 February 2015 as well as the provisional figures for March 2015. The provisional figures on the value of retail sales for all retail outlets and by broad type of retail outlet as well as the corresponding year-on-year changes for the first quarter of 2015 are also shown.

     Table 2 presents the revised figures on volume index of retail sales for all retail outlets and by broad type of retail outlet for February 2015 as well as the provisional figures for March 2015. The provisional figures on year-on-year changes for the first quarter of 2015 are also shown.

     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, May 5, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:30

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