Retail sales show uptick for March

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Retail sales increased by 2.3% in March from a revised 0.7% year-on-year contraction recorded in February.

The latest increase follows two consecutive months of decline in retail activity.

According to Stats SA, four of the seven retail groups registered a rise in sales.

The biggest contributors were in general dealers followed by household furniture as well as food and beverages.

Economists have cautiously welcomed the positive growth in retail sales.

They have noted that while the figures for March show signs of improvement, the data remains volatile due to the negative reading in January and February.

Old Mutual Investment Chief Economist, Johann Els, says with the contraction earlier this year, the quarter essentially experienced negative growth.

Els adds that the increase in retail sales reflects the latest employment figures.

“And the fact that we have had significantly lower levels of load shedding thus far this year, I think even if it comes back a little bit in winter because of higher demand, load shedding is easing off quite substantially, that means more production, it means more profitably for company’s and it likely means a continuation of positive job growth.”

FNB Senior Economist, Siphamandla Mkhwanazi, weighs in, saying this data suggests a negative impact on quarterly GDP growth.

“This allows aligns with our view that economic activity likely underperformed compared to initial expectations in the first quarter of 2024. The increase in retail sales was likely driven by holiday-related consumer shopping in March exceeding market expectations.”

– Reporting by Nosipho Radebe