Retail sales, excluding cars, down 3.1% in July

Takings by retailers rose in July as cars once again drove to the rescue.

Retail sales went up 2.8 per cent from the same month a year ago, thanks largely to a 36.5 per cent surge in automobile sales.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales declined 3.1 per cent in July from a year earlier, with takings sliding in almost all segments, according to the Department of Statistics yesterday.

Car showrooms have been getting a lift from lower certificate of entitlement premiums. The recent easing of auto loan rules likely also contributed to the lift in July, said OCBC economist Selena Ling.

Supermarkets, mini-marts and convenience stores, as well as sellers of medical goods and toiletries, also logged higher takings year on year.

Other retailers fared less well.

Takings at department stores and petrol service stations fell, while sellers of food and beverages, clothing and footwear, furniture and household equipment, recreational goods, watches and jewellery, and optical goods and books also did worse than last year. Sales of computer and telecommunications equipment experienced the steepest fall in July, down 18.8 per cent year on year.

Ms Ling said poor consumer confidence likely weighed on discretionary spending . "In particular, the softening of the domestic labour market conditions and tourism receipts could have played a role," she added.

She noted that retail sales might remain soft in the coming months amid temporary - and likely short-lived - concerns over the Zika outbreak and a more subdued domestic labour market.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2016, with the headline 'Retail sales, excluding cars, down 3.1% in July'. Print Edition | Subscribe