The Herald (South Africa)

December sales figures point to trade buoyancy

Retail performanc­e up 5.6% on previous year

- Shaun Gillham gillhams@tisoblacks­

DESPITE a tumultuous economic year, retailers ended last year on a high note, with December trade recording a 5.3% increase in sales over the same period in 2016. Highlighti­ng sales of household furniture, appliances and equipment, which fielded 10% year-on-year growth in sales, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) yesterday revealed trade buoyancy across the entire fourth quarter of last year, when retail trade sales increased by 5.6% compared with the same quarter in 2016.

The latest trade figures, released in Stats SA’s Retail Trade Sales report, were supported by the BankservAf­rica Economic Transactio­n Index (BETI), which measures transactio­ns in South Africa, and Mastercard, which pegged spending growth during the festive season at 3.8%.

The positive December trading period – the most important of the year for retailers – was also experience­d in Nelson Mandela Bay.

A recent survey by The Herald of shopping centres showed that trade had been brisk at all major centres in Port Elizabeth.

According to Stats SA, while retailers of household furniture, appliances and equipment had fielded collective sales growth of 10%, collective year-on-year sales growth for “all other retailers” was recorded at 14.7%.

This included positive results for retailers of clothing, footwear and leather goods, with 7.7% year-on-year growth, and general dealers, which saw a 3% increase in sales over 2016.

Shengeran Naidoo, head of stakeholde­r engagement for the BETI, said the latest data showed a strong Christmas season.

“Economic activity in January increased at its fastest rate on a year-on-year basis since August 2013.

“The actual number of transactio­ns that underpinne­d the BETI increased by 11.2% on a year-on-year basis, indicating that an underlying positive trend is starting to emerge,” Naidoo said.

“Although the seasonally adjusted BETI’s movement [transactio­ns] between January and December showed no change, it is a step in the right direction towards improvemen­t.

“For the first time in nine months, monthly declines did not occur for three consecutiv­e months.

“The flat movement between the January and December BETI change indicates that the economy is performing somewhat more positively.”

BankservAf­rica also revealed that, along with the volume of purchases, the value of purchases had also shown growth over December and that the main purchases recorded over this period had been at grocery stores and supermarke­ts. This was followed by service stations, eateries, family clothing stores, convenienc­e stores and speciality markets.

Mastercard SpendingPu­lse, which reports on national retail sales, said December had had the strongest monthly sales performanc­e for retail spending nationally since May 2013 and that sales volumes rose 3.8% (after inflation effects were removed) year on year.

“Including the effects of inflation, retail sales for December 2017 grew 7.5% year on year,” Mastercard’s senior vicepresid­ent for market insights, Sarah Quinlan, said.

“Inflation contribute­d just 3.7 percentage points to overall sales growth, which marks a significan­t decelerati­on in price inflation, bringing consumers much-needed relief over the holiday season.

“The spike in consumer spending during the holiday season took retail sales to new highs.

“Sturdier GDP growth, a lower inflation outlook and stronger rand, which drove down import prices – all benefited consumers over the holidays.”

The spike in consumer spending . . . took retail sales to new highs

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