Provisional statistics of retail sales for February 2015
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     The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released the latest figures on retail sales today (March 31).

     The value of total retail sales in February 2015, provisionally estimated at $46.6 billion, increased by 14.9% compared with the same month in 2014. The revised estimate of the value of total retail sales in January 2015 decreased by 14.5% from a year earlier. For the first two months of 2015 taken together, total retail sales decreased by 2.0% 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 February 2015 increased by 18.2% over a year earlier. The revised estimate of the volume of total retail sales in January 2015 decreased by 13.8% from a year earlier. For the first two months of 2015 taken together, total retail sales decreased by 0.3% in volume compared with the same period in 2014.

     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. 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, 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 value of sales and comparing the combined total sales for January and February 2015 with the same period last year, the value of sales of commodities in supermarkets increased by 3.7%. This was followed by sales of medicines and cosmetics (+8.3% in value); food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (+15.3%); electrical goods and photographic equipment (+12.7%); motor vehicles and parts (+11.8%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (+5.0%); furniture and fixtures (+8.9%); and Chinese drugs and herbs (+4.3%). The value of sales of other consumer goods, not elsewhere classified, remained virtually unchanged.

     On the other hand, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts decreased by 15.9% in the first two months of 2015 compared with the same period last year. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (-4.7% in value); commodities in department stores (-0.8%); miscellaneous consumer durable goods (-15.1%); fuels (-16.6%); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (-3.8%); and optical shops (-1.4%).

     Based on the seasonally adjusted series, the value of total retail sales decreased by 1.6% in the three months ending February 2015 compared with the preceding three-month period, while the volume of total retail sales decreased by 1.1%.

     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 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 taking the first two months of 2015 together to remove the distortions caused by the difference in timing of the Lunar New Year holidays, retail sales were nearly flat in volume terms compared to the same period last year. The subdued performance was mainly due to the notable fall in the sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts, conceivably reflecting the weak tourist spending on big-ticket items. Yet, the performance of many items that are more closely related to local consumption showed some relative improvement from December 2014.

     Looking ahead, the near-term performance of retail sales is still subject to uncertainties, depending on the labour market conditions as well as inbound tourism growth. Besides, we also need to closely monitor how various uncertainties in the external environment may affect local consumption sentiment going forward.

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 2015 as well as the provisional figures for February 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 two months of 2015 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 2015 as well as the provisional figures for February 2015. The provisional figures on year-on-year changes for the first two months of 2015 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 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: mrs@censtatd.gov.hk).

Ends/Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Issued at HKT 16:31

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