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Provisional statistics of retail sales for February 2017
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     The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released the latest figures on retail sales today (March 30).

     The value of total retail sales in February 2017, provisionally estimated at $34.8 billion, decreased by 5.7% compared with the same month in 2016. The revised estimate of the value of total retail sales in January 2017 decreased by 1.0% compared with a year earlier. For the first two months of 2017 taken together, it was provisionally estimated that the value of total retail sales decreased by 3.2% compared with the same period in 2016.

     After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the provisional estimate of the volume of total retail sales in February 2017 decreased by 6.1% compared with a year earlier. The revised estimate of the volume of total retail sales in January 2017 decreased by 1.4% compared with a year earlier. For the first two months of 2017 taken together, the provisional estimate of the total retail sales decreased by 3.6% in volume compared with the same period in 2016.

     In interpreting these figures, 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. Consumer spending in the local market normally attains a seasonal high before the festival. As the Lunar New Year fell on January 28 this year but on February 8 last year, it is more appropriate to analyse the retail sales figures for January and February taken together in making year-on-year comparison.

     Analysed by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of the provisional estimate of the value of sales and comparing the combined total sales for January and February 2017 with the same period a year earlier, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 1.2%. This was followed by sales of commodities in supermarkets (-3.5% in value); wearing apparel (-6.9%); commodities in department stores (-1.6%); electrical goods and photographic equipment (-23.6%); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (-14.9%); motor vehicles and parts (-4.0%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (-6.5%); and furniture and fixtures (-5.4%).
 
     On the other hand, the value of sales of medicines and cosmetics increased by 2.7% in the first two months of 2017 over the same period a year earlier. This was followed by sales of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (+1.4% in value); other consumer goods, not elsewhere classified (+6.7%); fuels (+6.4%); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (+0.3%); Chinese drugs and herbs (+0.2%); and optical shops (+1.4%).

     Based on the seasonally adjusted series, the provisional estimate of the value of total retail sales decreased by 4.2% in the three months ending February 2017 compared with the preceding three-month period, while the provisional estimate of the volume of total retail sales decreased by 3.9%.

     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 over 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 the performance of retail sales was still constrained by the lack of growth in tourist spending despite the modest recovery of visitor arrivals in recent months. Taking the first two months of 2017 together to neutralise the distortions by the timing of the Lunar New Year, the volume of retail sales declined by 3.6% year-on-year, similar to that in the fourth quarter of 2016.

     Looking ahead, the performance of retail sales will depend on the recovery pace of inbound tourism as well as whether consumer sentiment will be affected by the various external uncertainties. At present, local consumer sentiment remains well underpinned by the prevailing favourable job and income conditions. The Government will continue to monitor the situation closely.

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 January 2017 as well as the provisional figures for February 2017. 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 two months of 2017 taken together 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 January 2017 as well as the provisional figures for February 2017. The provisional figures on year-on-year changes for the first two months of 2017 taken together 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). Alternatively, the historical series of retail sales statistics can be downloaded in the form of a statistical table at the website of the C&SD (www.censtatd.gov.hk/hkstat/sub/sp320.jsp?productCode=D5600089).

     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, March 30, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:30
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