Beirut Traders Association-Fransa Bank Retail Index slides lower in first quarter

Lebanese shop in the Beirut district of Hamra. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Despite optimism at the time over the formation of a new Cabinet in February, Lebanon’s retail sector showed no sign of ending its steady decline in the first quarter of 2014, according to the Beirut Traders Association-Fransa Bank Retail Index.

“Retail trade activity has continued to experience persisting recessionary pressures,” a statement Wednesday announcing the first quarter index results said. "The positive impact resulting from the formation of a new government and from the relatively more serene security atmosphere ensuing this formation was not sufficient to reverse the adverse effects experienced by the retail trade markets."

The index reported a 7.2 percent decline in the first quarter compared with the same quarter of 2013. The statement called the drop “extremely worrisome,” especially considering “that activity in the first quarter of 2013 had already posted a 14.40 percent decrease in comparison to the same quarter of 2012.”

“The persisting dangerous downtrend that has become part of the prevailing retail trade scenery in Lebanon for more than two years now,” the statement said, “A downtrend that has started by being circumstantial, but quickly turned to become intrinsically structural.”

The index showed drops across most retail sectors, with the largest being a 25 percent drop in liquor and spirit sales. Supermarkets saw only a 3 percent drop, while restaurant sales were down 10 percent.

Petroleum and fuel sales were up 3.8 percent, while pharmaceutical sales rose 20 percent.

Compared with the previous quarter, the index declined 13.44 percent, which the statement said “exceeds what might have been expected as a result of seasonal factors, especially of year end season, although the 2013 year end results were gloomy and very disappointing.”





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