In the second half of 2013, trade was fostered by spending of savings and tourism
Today the retail trade data for the last month of 2013 were published, so we can put in the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle to get the full picture of trade developments last year. In 2013 overall, retail trade (at constant prices) grew by 3.8%, which means that compared to the 7.3% growth in 2012, there was a drop in the growth rate largely related to a higher base
Private consumption last year posted very robust growth, increasing already at the beginning of the year and keeping up a high growth rate in the subsequent quarters. The retail trade dynamics were (and have always been) more uneven than those of consumption, for it is more impacted by other factors as well, including gray economy, purchases made by tourists and legal persons as well as the appreciation of household consumer expenditures outside goods trade (services, household maintenance etc.), which put limits on purchasing ability.
At the beginning of last year, trade posted an increase hand in hand with private consumption, but in the second quarter, trade growth diminished to resume in the second half of the year. Parallel to the relatively rapid growth in the labour payment fund, consumption and trade were fostered in the second half of the year by greater expenditure of cash lats savings in the expectation of euro introduction.
In 2013, a more substantial contribution in trade was made also by tourist purchases, which are not included in private consumption. The "hottest period" of the tourist season is the summer months as well as the very end of the year and the very beginning of the next year when there is an influx of tourists from Russia.
Albeit the retail trade turnover has increased substantially since the lowest point of the crisis, it still lags behind, by about one fifth, the rapidly gained but unsustainable sales volumes of the so-called "years of plenty". There are two main reasons for smaller expenditures:
- In the years of plenty, consumption was stimulated not only by rising salaries and other income but also credit. At that time, the household debt grew substantially, which later meant limited spending ability.
- Compared to the pre-crisis level, the number of the employed is still lower as a result of emigration and a higher unemployment rate. The average salary has practically reached the pre-crisis level but the number of wage recipients is still much lower. Accordingly lower is also the number of consumers, which is reflected in the overall trade indicators.
In the coming years, the retail trade turnover could continue to grow by an average of 4-5% per annum. Growth could be faster or slower than predicted as a result of various factors, e.g., it can be impacted by re-emigration, saving habits, the purchasing ability of foreign guests, particularly those from Russia, who substantially increased their share in augmenting the overall income from tourist services.