Plunging sales of computer and telecommunications equipment left retail turnover in the doldrums in October, the second consecutive month of decline.
Total takings dipped 0.1 per cent compared with the same month last year, according to the Department of Statistics yesterday.
This fell short of economist expectations of a 1 per cent growth, according to a poll by Bloomberg. However, October's figure narrowed from a 0.6 per cent decline in September, revised from an earlier 0.5 per cent dip.
With motor vehicles stripped out, retail sales grew 0.8 per cent - much weaker compared with September's expansion of 3.3 per cent from a year ago.
On a month-on-month basis, retail takings rose 1.5 per cent. But with car sales stripped out, they fell 1 per cent. Car sales can be affected by government policies and the supply of certificates of entitlement.
Computer and telecommunications equipment was by far the worst performer, plunging 23.4 per cent from October last year.
The best performers were medical goods and toiletries, which rose 7.7 per cent, and petrol service stations, up 7.4 per cent.
Compared with September, computer and telecoms equipment was again the laggard, declining 21 per cent, followed by wearing apparel and footwear with a fall of 5 per cent.
An improvement in motor vehicle sales led retail growth with a gain of 14 per cent compared with September, with medical goods and toiletries coming in a far second at 3.5 per cent. Sales of food and beverage (F&B) services increased 0.7 per cent in October year-on-year, but fell 0.1 per cent compared with September.
But more promisingly, restaurant sales expanded by 0.7 per cent, reversing a decline of 3.8 per cent seen in September. October's figure also grew 3 per cent on a month-on-month basis.
Economists tend to look at restaurant sales as an informal indication of domestic consumer sentiment and to get a pulse of the economy.
The total retail sales value in October was estimated at $3.6 billion, similar to a year ago. Sales value of F&B services came to about $722 million, slightly higher than the $717 million seen last year.
Correction note: In a previous version of this story, the decline of restaurant sales in September was incorrectly stated. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.