Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The retail sector barely grew in March as consumers battled headwinds.

Retail sales were a tepid 0.2% higher in March, lower than the 0.6% expected by economists polled by Bloomberg.

This was an increase of R85.93bn in March compared to R83.61bn in March 2018.

Consumers came under pressure in March with a 74c/l increase in the petrol price and slightly higher inflation, which eroded real disposable income growth during the month.

The three-month average for the first quarter, which forms part of the country’s GDP, showed retail trade sales decreased 0.7% compared with the previous quarter.

Consumer confidence fell back the first quarter on weaker confidence around the outlook for the economy and personal finances.

The retail sector is an important indicator of consumer spending: it drives growth in the economy as it accounts for just more than 60% of GDP.

Retailers in household furniture, appliances and equipment saw the biggest rise of 1.9% followed by general dealers, which grew by 1.8% and all ''other'' retailers which were up 1.5%.

This follows weak performances in the mining and manufacturing sectors last week, which suggest the economy contracted in the first quarter of 2019.

Mining production fell 3.4% in the first quarter and manufacturing 2.4%.