BEIRUT: A study published Thursday showed that retail trade activity in Lebanon over the past two years declined by 35.5 percent.
“A state of continuous slowdown continued to prevail in the Lebanese trade markets, as all undermining factors not only persisted but even deteriorated further and continued to affect quite severely the level of activity in these markets for more than 18 months now,” a study prepared by Beirut Traders Association and Fransabank said.
The report attributed the drop in retail activity to the absence of any noticeable change in the prevailing political and security atmosphere.
The report stressed that the spate of bombings and security incidents across the country had discouraged consumers from buying goods in malls and shopping centers.
“It is important to note that such real negative figures would have been even worse if the inflation figures between the fourth quarter of 2012 and the fourth quarter of 2013 had been higher than the actual 1.12 percent announced by the Central Administration of Statistics,” the report added.
It said the compiled data pertaining to the activity of the retail trade sector during the fourth quarter of 2013 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2012 revealed that such activity has witnessed a sharp decline of 13.415 percent. The level of activity during the fourth quarter of 2012 registered a drop of 12.3 percent as compared to the same quarter of 2011.
Nicolas Chammas, president of the Beirut Traders Association, told The Daily Star in a recent interview that the volume of business declined sharply in 2012 and 2013 as a result of the political impasse and absence of Arab Gulf tourists.
“A persisting absence of Gulf visitors, whose purchases are estimated to account for 45 percent of the total retail trade activity that is subject to VAT, as well as a decline in the number of visiting Lebanese emigrants who chose alternative destinations for their holidays have contributed to a decline in trade activity,” Thursday’s report said.
It also cited the continued paralysis of land transportation as another reason for the drop in trade volume.
The report said that while some sectors succeeded in maintaining the same level of activity as in the fourth quarter of 2012, others have experienced sharp declines.
It noted that sales in the cosmetics and perfume sector, as well as the clothing sector, have maintained a level of activity almost equal to that of the fourth quarter of 2012 because of the very high discounts these sectors have had to offer.
But the report said sales of shoes saw a drop of 20 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 despite the discounts.
The study also revealed a decrease of 7.90 percent in terms of sales volume for fuel oil and gasoline, despite the high numbers of Syrian vehicles currently on the roads in Lebanon, and a 25 percent drop in the sales of pharmaceutical products.
There was a sharp drop in the sales of pastry, chocolate, sweets, jams and kernels.
The toys sector saw a sharp decrease of 7.75 percent, it added. The sector usually reaches the highest levels of sales activity during Christmas and the end-of-year season.