Picture: Daniel Born
Picture: Daniel Born

May’s retail sales growth recovered to 1.9% from April’s sharp slowdown when new taxes took effect.

Annual retail sales growth braked sharply from 4.6% in March to 0.5% in April when VAT increased to 15%, the new sugar tax of 2.1c per gram of sugar was introduced, and higher fuel levies came into effect.

The rebound to 1.9% in May was more than double the economists’ consensus of 0.8%, according to a poll by Trading Economics.

But the uptick in retail sales is unlikely to save SA from having entered a recession when Statistics SA publishes its second-quarter GDP report.

The three months seasonally adjusted figure, used to calculate GDP, for May came to negative 0.1%.

May’s total retail sales came to R84.7bn. In "constant prices" set to 2015, which Stats SA uses to strip inflation out of its sales growth figures, May’s retail sales amounted to R75bn.

Furniture retailers enjoyed the biggest growth in May from the same month in 2017, with sales rising 14.4% to R3.5bn in constant currency.

Clothing retailers grew sales 4.1% to R14bn, and pharmacies grew sales 2.2% to R5.6bn.

What Stats SA terms "food, beverages and tobacco in specialised stores" — delicatessens — suffered the biggest decline of 1.7% to R5.7bn.

General retailers, which account for 42% of Stats SA’s total, suffered a 1.1% decline in sales to R31.5bn.