Consumers feel pinch of high interest rates

17 January 2008 - 02:00
By unknown

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Growth in retail sales in November was at its lowest level in four years as consumers felt the pinch of high interest rates and low disposable household income.

Data released by Stats SA yesterday showed that sales in the retail sector for the quarter up to November last year saw an annual growth of just 0,2percent in real terms (with inflation in mind).

At constant prices there was an increase of only 1,2percent. In October sales were at a steady growth rate of 3,2percent in real terms.

Gina Schoeman, an economist at Macquarie Securities, said: "It was a shocker, but it was expected after the Reserve Bank's continual increasing of interest rates.

"On the other hand it's good news in the sense that the next Monetary Policy Committee is not likely to produce another interest rate hike."

The Reserve Bank has increased interest rates by 4percent in just 15 months in order to curb rampant spending. The committee is due to meet at the end of the month.

"Consumers are beginning to feel the pressure of high interest rates, and we expect this figure to weaken further. We're starting to see the effects of interest rates hikes," Schoeman added.

While most general dealers and textiles in the retail sector managed to scrape through with positive growth, furniture retailers produced negative growth for the period with a 9,3percent decline in sales.