February retail sales up on CNY spending

The total sales value of food and beverage services in February was estimated at $726 million, up from $692 million in the same month last year.
The total sales value of food and beverage services in February was estimated at $726 million, up from $692 million in the same month last year.PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Retail sales rose in February, due in part to the spending around the Chinese New Year holiday.

Takings were estimated at $3.7 billion, up 8.6 per cent on the $3.4 billion recorded in February last year.

Online retail sales formed an estimated 3.9 per cent of the total.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales rose even more, up 14 per cent from a year earlier, according to Statistics Department data yesterday.

Chinese New Year was celebrated in February this year but in January last year.

The festive season this year likely spurred sales of food retailers, apparel and footwear, department stores, and supermarkets and hypermarkets. These sectors all saw significant growth of between 24.8 per cent and 61.2 per cent compared with February last year.

By contrast, sales of motor vehicles fell 17.5 per cent year on year, while takings from computer and telecomms equipment, optical goods and books, and recreational goods dropped by between 1.9 per cent and 17.5 per cent.

Lower auto sales also pulled down the month-on-month figures.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, retail sales fell 1.7 per cent in February compared with January. Excluding motor vehicles, however, sales rose 1 per cent month on month.

"Still, it bears watching if retail sales continue to slip month on month now that the festive season is over," said OCBC economist Selena Ling.

UOB economist Francis Tan said a better comparison would be to compare the combined data for the first two months of the year with the same period a year ago.

Using this combined data, the total retail sales index would have fallen 0.6 per cent year on year in 2018, or risen 2 per cent excluding motor vehicles, he noted.

Sales of food and beverage services rose on both a year-on-year and a seasonally-adjusted month-on-month basis - up 4.9 per cent compared with a year before and up 8.2 per cent over January.

The total sales value of food and beverage services was estimated at $726 million, up from $692 million in February last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2018, with the headline 'February retail sales up on CNY spending'. Print Edition | Subscribe