The most expensive transaction for Black Friday was more than R6 million while for Cyber Monday this reached R5 million. Photo: AP
JOHANNESBURG – Retail sales in November benefited from Black Friday sales that saw retail activity register a growth of 3.1 percent year on year in the month – the biggest increase in retail trade in eight months.

November’s retail trade data was also above market expectations of a 2.5 percent year-on-year rise, while it increased 3.1 percent on a month-on-month basis from a 0.1 percent gain in October.

Statistics South Africa yesterday said that the biggest contributors to the increase in retail sales were household furniture, appliances and equipment, which surged 13.5 percent, textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods, which increased 4.2 percent, and general dealers, which saw sales go up 3.7 percent.

Capital Economics economist John Ashbourne said more would be known about how the economy performed in the fourth quarter when December’s data was released next month.

“One key risk is that November’s strong retail figure was distorted by the growing popularity of ‘Black Friday’ sales, and that volumes will snap back in December, removing a key source of economic growth,” Ashbourne said.

“November retail sales figures added to the evidence that South Africa’s economy slowed a touch in the fourth quarter. But economic growth was robust by recent standards, and we think conditions will improve in 2019.”

November’s retail trade figures completed a mixed bag of November’s activity data after manufacturing output data came out strong and mining production disappointed.

Mining production fell by a sharp 5.6 percent year-on-year in November while manufacturing production growth slowed from a downwardly revised 2.8 percent year-on-year in October to 1.6 percent in November.

Meanwhile, the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) trade conditions survey for December showed activity improved slightly from November’s data. The seasonally-adjusted Trade Activity Index recorded 47 in December compared to 40 in November.

However, Sacci said expectations for the next six months remained negative, notwithstanding that the Trade Expectations Index (TEI) increased slightly to 45 from 44 in November.

The TEI was 14 points below the December 2017 level of 59, mainly caused by high expectations in December 2017 following the positive business climate after new leadership was elected by the ruling party.

Sacci economist Richard Downing said the employment sub-index improved marginally by one point to 39 and the six-month employment outlook increased from 37 to 41.

“Although 2019 holds new promises, political uncertainty, municipal strikes, looming load shedding, land reform, and the deteriorating global economy are impacting trade conditions negatively additional to sector-specific issues,” Downing said.”