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Provisional statistics of retail sales for March 2016
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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 2016, provisionally estimated at $34.7 billion, decreased by 9.8% compared with the same month in 2015. The revised estimate of the combined value of total retail sales in January and February 2016 decreased by 13.6% compared with the same period a year earlier. For the first quarter of 2016, the value of total retail sales decreased by 12.5% compared with the same period in 2015.

     After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales in March 2016 decreased by 8.8% compared with a year earlier. The revised estimate of the combined volume of total retail sales in January and February 2016 decreased by 12.4% compared with the same period a year earlier. For the first quarter of 2016, total retail sales decreased by 11.3% in volume compared with the same period in 2015.

     Analysed by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of value of sales and comparing March 2016 with March 2015, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 20.3%. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (-11.0% in value); commodities in department stores (-5.4%); electrical goods and photographic equipment (-20.0%); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (-38.2%); motor vehicles and parts (-8.0%); fuels (-2.0%); furniture and fixtures (-3.8%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (-4.7%); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (-8.1%); and optical shops (-3.9%).

     On the other hand, the value of sales of medicines and cosmetics increased by 1.5% in March 2016 over a year earlier. This was followed by sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (+2.6% in value); other consumer goods, not elsewhere classified (+0.6%); and Chinese drugs and herbs (+4.4%). The value of sales of commodities in supermarkets showed little change over the same period.

     Based on the seasonally adjusted series, the value of total retail sales decreased by 8.0% in the first quarter of 2016 compared with the preceding quarter, while the volume of total retail sales decreased by 9.1%.

     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 some 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 C&SD publication "Gross Domestic Product (Quarterly)" for more details.

Commentary

     A government spokesman indicated that retail sales remained weak in March, with many types of retail outlet registering year-on-year declines in sales. The slowdown in inbound tourism continued to pose a severe drag, and the uncertain economic outlook and asset market consolidation had conceivably also hurt local consumption sentiment.

     Looking ahead, the near-term outlook for retail sales will continue to depend on the performance of inbound tourism, and on the extent to which the local consumption sentiment is affected by the headwinds arising from the subpar economic conditions and external uncertainties. The Government will continue to monitor closely the retail sales performance and its repercussions on the wider economy and job market.

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 2016 as well as the provisional figures for March 2016. 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 2016 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 2016 as well as the provisional figures for March 2016. The provisional figures on year-on-year changes for the first quarter of 2016 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 the 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 the C&SD (Tel: 3903 7400; email: [email protected]).

Ends/Thursday, May 5, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:31

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