Retailers experienced a small respite from months of lacklustre sales in May, though the overall picture still does not look upbeat.
Retail takings increased 6.1 per cent over May last year, but if vehicle sales are excluded to give a better indicator of underlying consumer demand, sales would have risen 0.9 per cent.
The car market has been getting a lift from people who made their purchases between 2004 and 2008, when the supply of certificates of entitlement was high. These owners are now looking to replace their vehicles.
Car showrooms sold 46.6 per cent more vehicles in May than they did in the same month a year ago, according to the Statistics Department yesterday.
Department stores, supermarkets, mini-marts and convenience stores and sellers of watches and jewellery also recorded higher takings in May over the same month a year ago.
In contrast, petrol service stations, sellers of recreational goods, optical goods and books, telecommunications apparatus and computers, and food and beverages were among those who logged lower sales.
Overall retail sales rose 2.4 per cent in May over April, after adjusting for seasonal effects.
OCBC economist Selena Ling said retailers did better than expected in May - she had anticipated a 5 per cent year-on-year increase in sales.
However, the sector might not be able to sustain this outperformance for last month, even with extra help from the Great Singapore Sale, she said. Retailers have been battling the challenges of a manpower crunch, online competition and rising rents.