Saturday, March 30, 2013

30/3/2013: Retail Sales in February: Deadman Still Walking

With all the Cypriot Meltdown excitement as the newsflow, Irish data releases slipped into 'noise background' this week, so time to fix that.

March 28th we saw the release of the retail sales data for Ireland for February 2013. The headline from CSO read: "Retail Sales Volume increased 0.3% in February 2013" which obviously is the good news. Except, in reality, reading below headline we discover that:

"The volume of retail sales (i.e. excluding price effects) increased by 0.3% in February 2013 when compared with January 2013 while there was no change in the annual figure.  If Motor Trades are excluded, the volume of retail sales decreased by 0.2% in February 2013 when compared with January 2013 and there was an annual increase of 1.0%."

Wait a second, ex-motors, retail sales fell 0.2% in volume in m/m terms, but were still up 1.0% y/y. Oh, and durable goods (e.g. Electrical Goods) sales were down again.

And in value terms? The stuff that makes retail businesses actually hire or fire workers and pay or not pay taxes?.. Much the same:

"The volume of retail sales (i.e. excluding price effects) increased by 0.3% in February 2013 when compared with January 2013 while there was no change in the annual figure.  If Motor Trades are excluded, the volume of retail sales decreased by 0.2% in February 2013 when compared with January 2013 and there was an annual increase of 1.0%."

Let's see some dynamics:

  • Value of sales ex-motors averaged 96.6 in 3mo through February 2013 against 97.0 in previous 3mo period. 6mo average through February 2013 was 96.8 (virtually identical to 3mo average), implying effectively zero growth over 6 months period, although previous 6mo period average was 95.5.
  • Over longer horizons: 2006-2007 average of the index stands at 112.1, which was down to 2010-2011 average of 96.6 and 2012 full year average of 96.0, and January-February 2013 average of 96.5. You can tell the that whole volume 'activity' is just a flat trend since January 2011 with some volatility around it.
  • Volume of activity slipped on 3mo average through February 2013 to 100.1 from 100.6 in 3 months through November 2012. The rate of decline on 3mo averages basis in volume was more pronounced than for value index, which is a story consistent with pretty much the entire crisis - retailers are only able to shift volumes at the expense of revenues they get. Consumers are getting better deals, but this also means employment in the sector is unlikely to increase.
  • 2012 average of 99.6 is pretty much matched by january-February 2013 average of 99.7 - again, flat line growth trend. And as before that one runs from January 2011.


I keep tracking Consumer Confidence here, to show that the whole idea of 'confidence' when not underpinned by supportive fundamentals is not a reasonable concept for anchoring one's expectations about real economic performance.

Here, per usual, updated charts linking (or rather showing the lack of links) confidence to retail sales indices:


Lastly, recall that I run my own index of Retail Sector Activity (RSAI) that is a much stronger correlative for retail sector indices:


Two things jump out from the chart above:
  1. The overall flat-line trend in activity in the retail sector over January 2009-present period, showing that, in principle, there is no recovery and there is no sustained signal of one coming so far in the short term future.
  2. Forward-looking RSAI has slipped (on 3mo average basis) from 107.9 in 3 months through November 2012 to 106.0 in 3 months through February 2013. M/m RSAI is down 1.83% and y/y it is up 1.84%, tracking correctly the overall dynamics in the CSO indices.
Hence, my expectation is for more of the same in the next 3 months, with retail sales slipping slightly in volume and value, posting closer to zero growth in y/y terms over Q2 2013. The deadman is still walking, for now... and the 'turning point' is still some corridors away...
Post a Comment