Car buyers help drive up retail sales in April

A surge in car-buying helped lift retail sales in April, making it the only bright spot as the rest of the sector continued to flounder.

Total retail sales in April was an estimated $3.5 billion, up 3.8 per cent from $3.3 billion in the same month last year, the Department of Statistics (DOS) said yesterday.

The rise was largely due to motor vehicle sales, which jumped 43 per cent.

But strip out car sales and overall retail sales were down 3 per cent.

In fact, without car sales, overall retail sales have dropped for three months in a row, noted OCBC Bank economist Barnabas Gan.

Food and beverage spending also managed to hold up, with spending rising 1.7 per cent in April from the same month last year, based on current prices.

This was led by a 5.1 per cent jump in revenue for cafes and other eating places, a 1.7 per cent rise in business for fast-food joints, while restaurant receipts also inched up 0.2 per cent. But business for food caterers fell by 4.1 per cent, the only drop in the sector.

Telecommunications apparatus and computer sellers, which posted a 17.1 per cent drop in sales, were hit the hardest in April, compared with the same month last year.

Turnover for discretionary items, such as watches and jewellery, also trailed behind, falling 11.3 per cent in April year on year.

"For the rest of the year, we look for motor vehicle sales to lend support to the overall retail sales, especially given the revised motor vehicle financing regulation made by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in May," said Mr Gan.

"Meanwhile, retail sales, excluding motor vehicles, may also see some pick-up in the next couple of months owing to the Great Singapore Sale, which started in June. Some retailers, including Robinson, started sales earlier in May."

Rachael Boon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Car buyers help drive up retail sales in April'. Print Edition | Subscribe