Instability deals blow to Lebanese consumer confidence

File - People shop at the Beirut Souks, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Retail sales dropped 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year, according to the BTA-Fransabank Retail Index, which declined 14.40 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2013.

The decline in sales was attributed to lower consumer confidence, higher unemployment and declining tourism due to political and social instability despite “relatively receding security hazards” amid “the continued crisis in neighboring Syria,” the report said.

Among the sectors worst hit by the economic slowdown, liquor and tobacco sales declined 25 and 15 percent, respectively, while footwear and clothing dropped 15.5 percent and 2.5 percent respectively, “despite very heavy discounts offered in these two sectors,” the report added.

Supermarket and other food sales also fell 3 percent despite the influx of Syrian refugees and the subsequent rise in demand for basic commodities.

The lower consumer confidence was mainly blamed on political uncertainty over the presidential election and a series of recent strikes held by civil servants and public teachers, according to the report.

It added that a decrease in the number of visitors from the Gulf, “who do have an important weight in the consumption balance,” was another factor. Several Gulf governments had advised their citizens against visiting Lebanon in light of the security situation.

The Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index Consumer confidence hit a record low on a semi-annual basis in the second half of 2013. The index is composed of two sub-indices, the Byblos Bank/AUB Present Situation Index and the Byblos Bank/AUB Expectations Index. The second sub-index addresses their outlook over the coming six months.

Restaurants and snacks witnessed a 10 percent decline in sales as the unemployment rate rose to 20 percent amid a wider increase in competition from the influx of Syrian refugees, the report said.

Bookstores and stationery sales also declined 12.5 percent while electronics, electrical equipment and home accessories fell 10 percent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2014, on page 5.




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