The Census and Statistics Department (C&SD) released the latest figures on retail sales today (March 2).
The value of total retail sales in January 2018, provisionally estimated at $44.9 billion, increased by 4.1% over the same month in 2017. The revised estimate of the value of total retail sales in December 2017 increased by 5.8% over a year earlier.
After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the provisional estimate of the volume of total retail sales in January 2018 increased by 2.2% over a year earlier. The revised estimate of the volume of total retail sales in December 2017 increased by 4.3% over a year earlier.
In interpreting the figures for January, 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 before the festival. As the Lunar New Year fell on February 16 this year but on January 28 last year, the year-on-year comparison of the figures for January 2018 with those for January 2017 might have been affected by this factor to a certain extent.
Analysed by broad type of retail outlet in descending order of the provisional estimate of the value of sales and comparing January 2018 with January 2017, and also bearing in mind the effect due to the difference in the timing of the Lunar New Year as mentioned above, the value of sales of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts increased by 10.4%. This was followed by sales of wearing apparel (+3.3% in value); medicines and cosmetics (+12.1%); electrical goods and other consumer durable goods, not elsewhere classified (+21.1%); other consumer goods, not elsewhere classified (+9.6%); motor vehicles and parts (+24.9%); fuels (+2.6%); furniture and fixtures (+8.6%); books, newspapers, stationery and gifts (+0.7%); and optical shops (+2.7%).
On the other hand, the value of sales of commodities in supermarkets decreased by 13.3% in January 2018 compared with a year earlier. This was followed by sales of commodities in department stores (-4.6% in value); food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco (-5.4%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (-9.8%); and Chinese drugs and herbs (-1.8%).
Based on the seasonally adjusted series, the provisional estimate of the value of total retail sales increased by 3.2% in the three months ending January 2018 over the preceding three-month period, while the provisional estimate of the volume of total retail sales increased by 2.5%.
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.
A government spokesman indicated that retail sales increased moderately in January 2018 over a year earlier, notwithstanding the drag on the year-on-year rate of change due to the difference in timing of the Chinese New Year, which fell in mid-February this year but late January last year. This suggests that consumer sentiment has been rather robust on entering 2018. Nevertheless, it would be more useful to analyse the retail sales figures for January and February combined, when available, to show more clearly the underlying growth trend.
Looking ahead, the favourable job and income conditions and sustained recovery in inbound tourism should continue to render solid support to retail business in the near term. The Government will monitor closely the situation.
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 December 2017 as well as the provisional figures for January 2018.
Table 2 presents the revised figures on volume index of retail sales for all retail outlets and by broad type of retail outlet for December 2017 as well as the provisional figures for January 2018.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org).
March 2, 2018