China Retail February 2020


China: Retail sales tumble in January-February as consumers stay at home

March 16, 2020

In January-February, nominal retail sales tumbled 20.5% on an annual basis. The print was not only the sharpest decline on record, but the first time that retail sales decline since the start of the current series in 1993. The print contrasted the 8.0% rise in December and largely undershot the 4.0% decrease that market analysts had expected. Retail sales plummeted across all the sub-categories.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, retail sales fell 4.5% in February, above the 9.4% drop in January. Meanwhile, annual average growth in retail sales fell from 8.1% in December to 5.7% in the first two months of the year.

The coronavirus outbreak weighed on retail sales as consumers avoided crowded places like shopping malls and restaurants. In fact, data for January-February shows that the services sector beared the brunt of the virus shock.

With analysts revising their projections based on recent developments, FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast participants expect retail sales to increase 7.3% in 2020, which is down 0.6 percentage points from last month’s estimate. In 2021, the panel foresees retail sales expanding 7.7%.

Author: Ricard Torné, Lead Economist

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China Retail Chart

China Retail February 20 20

Note: Month-on-month changes of seasonally adjusted nominal retail sales index and year-on-year variation in %. Owing to seasonal factors related to the Lunar New Year, annual figures for January and February are reported together.
Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China (NBS) and FocusEconomics calculations.

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