China retail sales fall in July in blow to government plan to have shoppers offset trade war effects
Shares in retailers also decline after the figures, which come amid signs of an economic slowdown
Sales at 50 major Chinese retailers fell by 3.9 per cent in July from a year earlier, raising concerns over whether Beijing can push through its plan to ramp up domestic consumption to offset the effects of the intensifying US-China trade war.
Retailers of home appliances saw the biggest decline, with a 9.9 per cent drop, followed by daily necessities, which fell 5.7 per cent and clothing sales down 3.8 per cent, according to the China National Commercial Information Centre, a state-backed consultancy that is authorised by the National Statistics Bureau to release the figures.
“In general, the performance of China’s retail sector was rather sluggish in July,” it said, noting that a 6.5 per cent rise in cosmetics sales was the one bright spot. It did not disclose names of specific retailers.
The weak figures come as Beijing has been trying to encourage domestic consumption, with measures such as lowering tariffs for consumer goods, as part of its strategy to deal with the mounting pressure from the trade war, which is set to crimp the country’s exports, traditionally one of the main drivers of growth.
Analysts from Oxford Economics have predicted that China’s GDP growth may slow to 6.4 per cent this year, from 6.9 per cent in 2017, as the effects of the trade war weigh.
Other earlier official figures have already pointed to a downturn in retail, with sales in May expanding by their slowest rate in 15 years. At the same time, industrial production, another pillar of the country’s economic growth, also lost steam in the month, pointing to the possibility of a slowdown in economic growth.
Beijing said last Friday it would impose tariffs ranging from 5 per cent to 25 per cent on US$60 billion worth of American products. That was in response to the latest US threat to slap duties on US$200 billion of Chinese goods, and to raise those tariffs from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.
An index of retail sector stocks, consisting of 169 major retailers listed in Shenzhen and Shanghai, dropped 2.16 per cent on Wednesday, with 138 shares seeing declines and 18 shares an increase, according to Stock.com, a Chinese stock exchange information provider. Clothing chain Heilan Group lost 5.1 per cent and Midea Group, China’s leading home appliances retailer, fell 1.1 per cent.