Retail sales fall more than 12 percent in value

Sales of footwear dropped 42 percent in 2012.

BEIRUT: The value of retail sales fell by 12.3 percent in 2012 due to the political stalemate and ramifications of the Syrian crisis, the Beirut Traders Association-Fransabank Retail Index showed Monday.

“The very negative effects of the local political bickering and unrest, especially the assassination of a top security figure; the ban maintained on travel to Lebanon for Gulf nationals; [and] unresolved socio-economic claims and disputes were further sharpened by yet another missed high shopping season opportunity,” head of BTA Nicolas Chammas said in a statement.

Regional instability, particularly in neighboring Syria, continues to have heavy repercussions on consumers, the report added.

“Consumers appear to have maintained, if not strengthened, their sharp restraint in spending, not only in vital trade sectors, but also in sectors that traditionally witness their best results during the festive period,” it said.

Sales of footwear dropped 42 percent while clothing declined by 35 percent. Sales of alcoholic beverages dropped 8.5 percent.

The high inflow of refugees from Syria was not matched by an increase in consumption, even in basic vital sectors, the report said.

“Real sales in supermarkets declined by 0.6 percent despite the influx of a considerable number of refugees from Syria [to Lebanon] and the ensuing basic food consumption expected,” the report said.

The level of sales for durable goods, even goods traditionally purchased in the fourth quarter of 2012 for holiday season gifts, posted sharp decreases.

Home accessories dropped a whopping 58 percent while toy sales plummeted 52 percent.

Cell phones, electronics and appliances and furniture decreased 15, 7.5 and 4.5 percent respectively.

Bookstore sales dropped 25 percent, the report said.

The only commodity that showed a noticeable increase in sales was tobacco, with an almost 5 percent real increase, despite the passage of the new law to ban smoking in public places.

The figures show that Lebanese households are applying stricter austerity measures, the report said.

“This self-imposed discipline is extended not only to durable goods, but also to seasonal and festive purchases, as well as basic staples,” it said.

Overall retail trade activity witnessed during 2012 a 2.88 percent growth – mostly due to a solid commercial showing during the first half of the year, which faltered thereafter, as well as sustained strong new car sales.

“Given that the commercial sector represents a vital component of the Lebanese GDP, and notwithstanding the effects of seasonality, we do maintain that overall economic growth will translate into an almost 0 percent growth at best for 2012,” the report concluded.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 05, 2013, on page 5.




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