Retail spending showed signs of recovery in January, growing 1.2% on an annualised basis, slightly faster than analysts had expected.

Consumer spending drives more than 60% of SA's GDP, with  Statistics SA reporting on Wednesday that seasonally adjusted retail trade sales increased 1.5% in January from the previous month.

In the three months ended January 2019, seasonally adjusted retail trade sales increased 0.2% on an annualised basis.

Retailers in the pharmaceuticals and medical goods, cosmetics and toiletries sector registered the biggest increase, growing sales 6% year on year.

Statistics SA’s retail figures for December had showed a shock decline of 1.4% instead of the expected 2.1% growth. This had been particularly bad news for a sector that relies on increased activity in the festive period to boost their results.

There have subsequently been a series of disappointing corporate earnings updates from local retailers in recent weeks. The JSE's general retail index is by far the worst performing index so far in 2019, having fallen just less than 15%, compared to a 7.47% rise in the all share.

The food and drug retail index has lost 4%.