China's retail sales declined during the first four months of this year as the flare-ups of COVID-19 weighed on the country's consumer market, official data showed on Monday.
Retail sales of consumer goods, a significant indicator of China's consumption strength, went down 0.2 percent year on year to 13.81 trillion yuan (about 2 trillion U.S. dollars) in the January-April period, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed.
In April alone, retail sales declined 11.1 percent from a year ago to 2.95 trillion yuan.
"The decline of retail sales in April was mainly due to the short-term impact of COVID-19," said NBS spokesperson Fu Linghui at a press conference.
Last month, sales of non-daily necessities and the catering sector took a blow from the COVID-19 resurgence, dragging down the growth of China's overall retail sales, Fu said.
In April, catering revenues declined by 22.7 percent. Regions severely hit by COVID-19, such as the Yangtze River Delta and northeast China, saw retail sales plunge.
Despite the drop in retail sales, residents' basic living needs were guaranteed, leading to the sales growth of relevant commodities.
Sales of beverages of major enterprises jumped 6 percent in April, while sales of grain, edible oil and other food products rose 10 percent, NBS data showed.
Major supermarkets saw sales grow 3.6 percent year on year in the first four months. Sales from groceries and convenience stores rose 2.4 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively.
Moreover, China's online consumption continued to shore up retail sales. In the first four months, online sales of physical goods rose 5.2 percent, with its proportion in retail sales increasing.
Fu expected China's consumption to gradually recover from the COVID-19 impact and continue to stabilize the economy, adding that consumption served as the primary force driving China's economic growth in 2021 and the first quarter of this year.
"The pent-up consumption will be gradually released with the epidemic brought under control and production and people's lives returning to normal," Fu noted.
The recovery momentum of China's consumption will continue partly due to the easing epidemic situation, pro-consumption policies, and measures on supporting enterprises, he said.