China Retail Sales
Sale signs are displayed at the front of a shop (Photo: Reuters / Henry Nicholls)

New data released by China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed a surprising increase in the country's retail sales. According to the data, China's retail sales of consumer goods had risen by 8.3 percent year-on-year for the first seven months of the year.

The increase was slightly lower than the 8.4 percent increase in retail sales of consumer goods for the first half of the year. This was partly due to a retail sales increase of 7.6 percent in the month of July, which was 2.2 percent lower than the growth of retail sales in June. Nevertheless, the increase was still higher than the growth recorded during the same month one year earlier.

The NBS explained that the drop in retail sales for the month of July was partly due to overall shrinkage in overall auto sales in the country. It is also common for these figures to show a slightly lower number for July, given that it is the start of the third quarter and numbers tend to pick up at the third month of each quarter.

The agency calculated that if they were to exclude Chinese auto sales, the overall growth of retail sales of consumer goods for the month of July would have been 8.8 percent. This would have been in line with their expectations that the growth rate would have been similar to the one seen during the month of June.

Automotive sales in Chinese were initially on track in June, with a 17.2 percent increase year-on-year. The figures then dipped in July after the government imposed new emission standards that effectively increased prices of automotive products. The spike in June was mostly due to an increase in deals and promotions for cars that would not meet the new emission standards, resulting in an increase in auto sales for that month.

Following the June 30 deadline, dealers could no longer legally sell vehicles that would not pass the new emissions standards. This resulted in a sharp dip in automotive sales for the month of July, which saw a 2.6 percent drop overall.

According to NBS spokeswoman Liu Aihua, who spoke at a press conference during the release of the new economic data, overall consumption in China has remained stable. Fast expansion and potential for further growth were still expected, partially due to the increase in income and purchasing power of Chinese citizens. Liu further elaborates that China was still on track as conditions are still rife for further growth and consumption.