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China's retail sales down 19% in Q1

Updated: Apr 17,2020 10:21 AM    Xinhua

BEIJING — China's retail sales of consumer goods, a major indicator of consumption growth, declined 19 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year as the novel coronavirus outbreak hit the economy, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on April 17. 

The figure slightly rebounded from a drop of 20.5 percent in the first two months, NBS data showed.

In March, retail sales of consumer goods reached 2.645 trillion yuan (about $374 billion), down 15.8 percent year-on-year.

Retail sales in rural areas dropped 17.7 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, while that in urban areas decreased 19.1 percent.

The decline came as efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 have kept most people across China indoors, as well as shops and restaurants shut during the past three months.

Revenues of the catering sector, one of the worst-hit industries, fell 44.3 percent compared with the same period last year, said the NBS.

Meanwhile, online sales stayed relatively stable as consumers turned to online services when staying indoors, falling 0.8 percent year-on-year. Online sales of physical goods expanded 5.9 percent to 1.85 trillion yuan, accounting for 23.6 percent of the total retail sales in the first quarter.

As the COVID-19 epidemic wanes in China, the country has been introducing a string of measures to revive consumer confidence as part of broader efforts to shore up the economy.

A number of local governments have started to offer vouchers to boost spending, while incentives for automobile purchase were introduced to prop up the sector considered pivotal in supporting the economy.

The consumer market has showed signs of recovery amid the measures. Growth of sales revenue at 5,000 major retailers rose 15.8 percentage points in March compared with that of February, and further improved into April, the Ministry of Commerce said on April 16.

The auto sector also warmed up in March. Automobile output jumped almost 400 percent last month from February, while sales surged 361.1 percent month-on-month, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers showed.

The data released on April 17 showed that China's gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 20.65 trillion yuan in the first quarter, down 6.8 percent year-on-year.