Weak car market drives down Sept retail sales

Total retail takings fell by 0.5 per cent compared with September last year, a sharp deterioration from August's growth of 3.7 per cent.
Total retail takings fell by 0.5 per cent compared with September last year, a sharp deterioration from August's growth of 3.7 per cent.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Sector sees first decline in six months, but sales excluding cars increase 3.3%

Retail sales fell in September - the first decline in six months and a sharp reversal on August thanks mainly to a lacklustre motor vehicle market.

Total takings in the sector fell by 0.5 per cent compared with September last year. This was a sharp deterioration from August's growth of 3.7 per cent, which was revised up from 3.5 per cent previously.

That revised number was the strongest expansion since March last year and the sixth consecutive month of increase.

September's figure from the Department of Statistics yesterday was also much lower than economist estimates of a 3 per cent growth in an earlier poll by Bloomberg.

However, Standard Chartered economist Jonathan Koh said the poor headline figure was expected, given earlier data showing that prices of certificates of entitlement (COE) and vehicle registrations had fallen.

Car sales can be greatly affected by government policies and the supply of COEs.

When car sales are stripped out of the data, September retail sales actually grew 3.3 per cent.

On a year-on-year basis, motor vehicles sales plunged the most among all the categories, falling 15.3 per cent, followed by computer and telecommunications equipment at 7.4 per cent. Supermarket sales fared the best at 9.8 per cent, with petrol service stations next at 9.2 per cent.

Sales of food and beverage services also fell in September, down 0.3 per cent year on year and 1.1 per cent less than in August.

September's total retail sales value was about $3.4 billion compared with $3.5 billion a year earlier.

Mr Koh noted that headline retail sales rose 1.3 per cent in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period in 2016.

He added that retail sales are likely to remain subdued for the rest of the year. He said: "The outlook for the domestic sector is still weak and the labour market is still soft. I don't expect retail sales to pick up significantly."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Weak car market drives down Sept retail sales'. Print Edition | Subscribe