HK’s retail sales in March rise 5%

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Hong Kong, The value of total retail sales in March rose 5% on a year earlier, to $18.9 billion, the Census & Statistics Department says. For this year's first quarter, total retail sales increased 9.4% in value or 6.6% in volume over the same period last year.

After netting out the effect of price changes over the same period, the volume of total retail sales saw a 3.5% year-on-year rise in March.

The government attributed the modest growth in March to a "fall-off" in month-to-month sales of supermarkets and motor vehicles. It said that retail sales also tend to show "greater volatility in the first two months" of the year due to the Chinese New Year.

Yet sales of clothing and footwear, electrical appliances and department stores' sales held up very well, a reflection of consumers' willingness to spend in tandem with the economic upturn.The volatility in the stock market that began at the end of February and extended into most of March, and the slow-down in inbound tourism led to lower spending on luxurious items like jewellery and watches.

For the first two months of 2007, retail sales increased by 11.6 pct in value and 8.1 pct by volume from a year earlier. For the first quarter, total retail sales rose 9.4 pct in value terms and were up 6.6 pct by volume from the same period a year ago.

"For the first quarter as a whole, retail sales actually picked up further, as can be seen from the slightly faster year-on-year growth in the first quarter than in the fourth quarter of 2006," a government spokesman said.

Electric goods and photographic equipment registered the biggest increase in sales by volume of 18.8 pct in March. This was followed by wearing apparel (up 9.1%); commodities in department stores (7.7%); footwear, allied products and other clothing accessories (7.6%); miscellaneous consumer goods (4.4%); fuels (1.9%); and furniture and fixtures (0.5%).

On the other hand, the sales volume of miscellaneous consumer durable goods and motor vehicles and parts fell 9.2% and 3.6%. The sales volume of commodities in supermarkets fell 2.7%, while that of jewellery, watches and clocks, and valuable gifts fell 1.7%. The sales volume of food, alcoholic drinks and tobacco remained virtually unchanged.

Looking forward, the government spokesman said that "rising household income, (an) improved job market and sustained low interest rates should continue to provide support to retail businesses."

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