GROWTH in South Africa's retail sales braked sharply to 1% on a year-on-year basis at constant prices in April, compared with a revised 6,7% in March, Statistics South Africa said on Wednesday.

Stats SA said the year-on-year figure was coming off a relatively high base.

"Retail sales were boosted in April 2011 by the concentration of public holidays late and additional school holidays after the Easter weekend," it said in statement.

On a monthly basis, sales were at 1,5% in April and rose by 4,7% in the quarter to April compared with the same period a year ago - also at constant prices.

Economists polled by Reuters expected year-on-year sales growth to ease to 4,5% in April.

Standard Chartered's regional research head for Africa, Razia Khan, said weak retail sales will reinforce the belief that it may still be a while before there is an increase in interest rates.

Johannes Khosa, Nedbank economist, said: "It's a very bad number. We were expecting it to increase by 4,1%".

"It continues to provide further evidence consumer spending is likely to moderate during the second quarter of this year" he said.

Peter Attard Montalto, an emerging market economist at Nomura, said most of the weakness appears to come from durable and semi-durable related goods.

REUTERS