A customer pushes a shopping cart at Sun Art Retail Group's Auchan hypermarket store in Beijing, China, November 9, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Retail sales hit their year high in December, buoyed by the festive mood in the food and beverage sector and continued surge in online shopping. Still, inflationary pressures are making themselves felt in consumers’ pocketbooks, climbing to their highest in 30 months.

Higher prices on shop stickers nationwide played a major role in the 0.1 percentage uptick last month to 10.9%, with price-adjusted sales growth steady at 9.2%.

Diners notched up 335.2 billion yuan (US$48.8 million) in bills, up 10.6% from a year earlier and an improvement on November’s 10.1% year-on-year gain — perhaps driven by Chinese homeowners celebrating their good fortunes in the property market.

Consumer goods sales rose 10.9% in December from a year ago, the same as in November but well ahead of gross domestic product growth of 6.7% for the year.

Vehicle sales jumped 14.4% from 13.1%, and clothing to 7.1% from 5.1%. Food products, another major component, rose 8.6% from 8.8% in November.

E-commerce for the full year totalled 5.16 trillion yuan, 26.2% up on 2015, and accounting for 12.6% of overall retail sales in China. The percentage was just 9.7% during the first half of 2015.

A key indicator of consumer spending, China’s retail sales grew 10.4% in 2016, the same as in the first three quarters. After deducting price changes, retail sales clocked in at 9.6%, according to National Bureau of Statistics. Total retail sales were 33.23 trillion yuan in 2016.

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