Retail sales drop 4.1 % in August in 7th straight monthly slide

Retail sales dropped 4.1 per cent year on year, not far from the 4.3 per cent decline consensus forecast by analysts polled by Bloomberg.
Retail sales dropped 4.1 per cent year on year, not far from the 4.3 per cent decline consensus forecast by analysts polled by Bloomberg.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Takings at the till fell for the seventh straight month in August compared with the same period last year, as sales fell for big-ticket items, especially cars, according to data released by the Department of Statistics on Friday (Oct 11).

Retail sales dropped 4.1 per cent year on year, not far from the 4.3 per cent decline consensus forecast by analysts polled by Bloomberg.

Excluding motor vehicles, the drop in sales eased to 1 per cent.

Motor vehicle sales sank 20.3 per cent compared with August last year, reversing July's year-on-year rise of 1.5 per cent.

Next hardest hit after motor vehicles were furniture and household equipment, whose sales dropped 9.8 per cent, followed by watches and jewellery, where turnover fell 8.6 per cent.

Ms Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at OCBC Bank, said: "It looks like consumer spending is being dented, possibly by belt tightening. Even if Singapore visitor arrival numbers hold up, as what the F1 numbers suggest, the spending is more muted."

She said the growth picture remains sluggish in the near term. "Even if there is a mini or partial US-China trade deal, the global economy is facing depressed prospects."

"(In Singapore) it's a combination of both soft macro-economic fundamentals and structural challenges like high rentals, domestic labour crunch and fickle consumers," she added.

Petrol service stations recorded sales dipping by 3.3 per cent.

However, retailers of wearing apparel and footwear saw takings increase by 4.9 per cent. Department stores recorded growing sales of 4.7 per cent and sellers of medical goods and toiletries saw growth of 4 per cent.

The sales of food and beverage services also increased, by 3.6 per cent year on year. Fast-food outlets saw the biggest improvement in sales, of 10 per cent compared with last year. Restaurants saw takings grow by 4.9 per cent, while food caterers also recorded an increase of 3.7 per cent.

However, other eating places such as cafes saw takings dip by 0.4 per cent.

The total sales value of food and beverage services in August this year was estimated at $916 million, compared with $884 million in August last year.

The estimated total retail sales value in August this year was about $3.6 billion. Online retail sales made up an estimated 5.5 per cent of this figure.