Cars provide biggest boost as retail sales inch upwards in Sept

Retail spending improved in September on the back of a slight lift in consumer sentiment.

Total retail sales were up 2 per cent over the same month last year to an estimated $3.5 billion, the Department of Statistics said yesterday.

If car sales were stripped out, overall sales would be down 1.9 per cent year on year but up 0.7 per cent from August.

DBS economist Irvin Seah said: "While short of seeing improvement in economic conditions, they have stopped deteriorating in a big way as what we've seen earlier in the year.

"We are seeing some signs of bottoming out, so today's number has sort of reaffirmed it.

"We've seen that in terms of loan growth, container throughput. Some of the externally driven data is showing some tentative signs of bottoming out so, it's interesting to see that the retail numbers are also reflecting that."

The highest increased spending was in motor vehicles, rising 20.4 per cent from the same month last year, but down 6.3 per cent from August.

Several categories improved sales in September compared with last year, unlike in August when many were in the red.

Food and beverage spending was up 3.5 per cent from last year, and up 3.6 per cent from August.

Restaurant expenditure rose 6.6 per cent from August while takings at other eating places like cafes increased by 6.2 per cent. Business at fast-food joints dipped 2.2 per cent, while turnover at caterers was the hardest hit, dropping 6.6 per cent from August.

Year-on-year data showed sales of computer and telecommunications equipment took the biggest fall, down 9.6 per cent, but up 11.1 per cent from August.

Recreational goods also did well in September, up 12.4 per cent from August and 6.7 per cent in the same month last year.

Mr Seah said: "The United States labour market is improving, and hopefully, that will translate to stronger demand, which we have yet to see."

He added that the structural slowdown in China has moderated as well. "But we still need to remain cautious," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Cars provide biggest boost as retail sales inch upwards in Sept'. Subscribe