Shoppers spent less last Christmas than the previous year, Stats SA’s retail figures for December released on Wednesday showed. Adjusted for inflation, the annual decline in December’s retail sales came to 1.4%. SA retail sales tend to spike sharply in December, although the growing popularity of Black Friday sales has shifted some of the shopping splurge to November — when the sector saw its most substantial jump in 11 months as a result of huge sales. The retail sector is an important indicator of consumer spending, which drives growth in the economy as it accounts for just more than 60% of GDP. However, consumers came under immense pressure in 2018 with the first VAT hike in two decades and steep fuel price increases.

The three-month seasonally adjusted average for the December quarter, which forms part of the country’s GDP, showed an annual increase of 0.8%. Although economists had expected retail sales to slow down from November’s 2.9% annual growth, the consensus was for...

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