Retail sales reversed course in February after a modest rise in January, with patchy performances across segments.
Takings fell 2.5 per cent in February over the same month a year earlier, according to Department of Statistics data out yesterday. This compares with economists' expectations of a 1.9 per cent rise.
February's lacklustre showing came after a 2.3 per cent increase in January, possibly owing to the Chinese New Year festive season.
Petrol service stations were the strongest performers in February, with takings up 14.6 per cent year on year.
Car showrooms also did well, with motor vehicle sales increasing 9.4 per cent. If car sales were excluded, overall retail sales would have fallen by a heftier 4.9 per cent.
Other segments also raked in more, including sellers of medical goods and toiletries, recreational goods, and furniture and household equipment.
Sales of food and beverages logged the worst performance, sliding 17.4 per cent, compared with a year earlier.
Takings at department stores, supermarkets, mini-marts and convenience stores dropped year on year.
Sales at clothing and footwear retailers also declined 12.5 per cent from a year earlier.
OCBC economist Selena Ling noted that retail sales over the January to February period inched up just 0.09 per cent from a year earlier.
This pales in comparison to the same period last year when takings rose 2.9 per cent.
"While January and February data tends to be volatile and sensitive to the timing of the Chinese New Year festive period, the latest retail sales reading suggests consumer spending is off to a somewhat weak start this year," said Ms Ling.
"Given the softening in domestic labour market conditions, consumers may continue to exercise caution in their discretionary spending in the months ahead as well."