Slower South Africa retail sales.

There is no doubt that official statistics, that is the statistics published by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the country's central statistics office, show a slowing of retail sales.

The Business Report (Johannesburg), an insert published in four South African newspapers, said on December 13, 2005, that the Stats SA results for the year ending September 2005 showed an increase in retail sales of 4.7 percent. The comparison is with the year ending in September 2004.

Results for August 2005 showed an increase of 8.2 percent. The high for 2005 was in April 2005 when retail sales increased 9.3 percent over the year ending in April 2004.

The Stats SA retail sales review cautioned that its results may have been skewed by the fact that in 2004 the Easter holiday fell in April 2004 whereas in 2005 Easter fell in March 2005. Stats SA also said that other data may be distorted by the fact that April 2005 was a longer working month because of the holidays in March 2005.

There is some debate among statisticians about the validity of so-called "calendar" effects.

While quarterly results appear to confirm a retail slowdown, the South African business press offers sometimes conflicting headlines-acknowledging a slowdown but at the same time characterizing retail sales as still quite good.

The Business Report pointed out that for the first nine months of 2005, retail sales increased 5.9 percent compared with a 9.9 percent increase for the same period in 2004 and a 4.3 percent increase in 2003.

The South African...

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