Retail sales staged a small recovery after two straight months of year-on-year declines, figures released by the Department of Statistics yesterday showed.
Takings at the till in September were 1.9 per cent higher year on year, as car sales rose after big drops in August and July.
However, the rebound was weaker than expected, with analysts polled by Bloomberg expecting retail sales to rise by 2.1 per cent in September.
The biggest percentage increase in sales was enjoyed by petrol service stations, which saw their takings jump 11.4 per cent, owing to higher petrol prices. In volume terms, after removing the price effect, the increase recorded in the industry was just 2.1 per cent.
Sales of motor vehicles in September were also 2.6 per cent higher than they were for the same month last year.
Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales grew by 1.8 per cent.
Apart from petrol sales, other retailers registered single-digit revenue growth year on year for September, with food retailers seeing a rise of 2.5 per cent, apparel and footwear retailers enjoying a 3 per cent rise, and watch and jewellery retailers seeing growth of 7.4 per cent.
Retailers of computer and telecommunications equipment and those selling optical goods and books registered a year-on-year drop in sales, by 5.8 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively.
The total retail sales value in September was about $3.6 billion. Online retail sales made up an estimated 4.9 per cent of the pie.
Separately, sales of food and beverage services grew by 1.3 per cent year on year in September.
Fast-food outlets grew their sales by 5.9 per cent, but food caterers saw their takings drop by 8.9 per cent.
The total sales value for this segment was estimated at $704 million, higher than the $695 million in September last year.
Experts said lifestyle changes might have caused the slight increase in sales year on year.
Ms Esther Ho, director at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, said: "The increase in sales for restaurants and fast-food outlets could be precipitated by the increased number of new establishments and choices.
"On the demand side, more and more people are choosing to eat out due to their busy lifestyles and greater affluence."
As for car sales, Assistant Professor of finance Aurobindo Ghosh said: "The low certificate of entitlement premium might have led to higher sales figures of cars."
Prof Ghosh, who is from the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University, added that petrol sales might have also picked up partly because of this demand.