Cars drive August retail sales up by 6.1%

Car sales soared 43.9 per cent over August last year, thanks to cheaper certificates of entitlement.
Car sales soared 43.9 per cent over August last year, thanks to cheaper certificates of entitlement.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A surge in car buying helped boost retail sales in August although shoppers returning to the stores did their bit as well.

The retail sales index rose 6.1 per cent compared with the same period last year and was up 5 per cent over July.

Car sales led the charge, soaring 43.9 per cent over August last year, thanks to cheaper certificates of entitlement (COEs). Medical goods and toiletries also rose by double digits, up 10.9 per cent, the Department of Statistics said yesterday.

More people also bought watches and jewellery, with sales up 8.7 per cent, while department store turnover climbed 5.1 per cent.

These advances helped offset sales declines in other areas, such as petrol stations, which fell 20 per cent; optical goods and books, which dropped 11.8 per cent; and food and beverages, down 6.4 per cent.

If the 43.9 per cent jump in motor vehicle sales is excluded, retail turnover rose by only 1.3 per cent in August.

In all, retail sales grew 4.7 per cent for the first eight months of the year, well above the 2 per cent contraction in the same period last year, said OCBC economist Selena Ling.

"This reinforces the flash (third- quarter) GDP (gross domestic product) estimates, which showed resilience in the service sector growth," she noted.

"Looking ahead, medical goods and toiletries sales may continue to be buffered by the hazy conditions in September, especially in terms of Singaporeans snapping up air purifiers and N95 masks, etc, while the F1-related activities may mitigate the impact of haze on the overall retail sales for the month."

Total retail sales value in August was estimated at $3.5 billion - higher than August 2014's $3.3 billion.

Aaron Low

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Cars drive August retail sales up by 6.1%'. Print Edition | Subscribe