Measured in real terms, retail sales increased by 1.1% year-on-year in August, following a 2% jump in July, figures released on Wednesday by Statistics South Africa showed.
Amid continued pressure from a weak economy, the largest annual growth rates were recorded for sales in household furniture, appliances and equipment (4.5%).
Seasonally adjusted retail trade sales decreased by 0.9% in August 2019 compared with July 2019. This followed month-on-month changes of 0.2% in July 2019 and 0.7% in June 2019. Seasonally adjusted retail trade sales in the three months to August increased by 0.7% compared with the previous three months.
"This demonstrates retailers' inability to pass on price increases amid intensified bargain hunting by consumers," said Siphamandla Mkhwanazi, Senior FNB Economist for Property and Consumer Economics. "Looking ahead, our expectation of lower interest rates, combined with strong unsecured credit lending, will provide auxiliary support for consumer spending," he added.
Mkhwanazi also said the numbers reflected a muted demand environment, as well as low consumer price inflation readings, which have averaged just 2.4% in the year to date.
South Africa's economy has been hit by persistent low growth levels, which have seen unemployment figures rise by 1.4 percentage points to 29% in the second quarter of the year.
The economy in the second quarter grew by 3.1%, but the growth was not enough to dent the country's high unemployment rate.