S'pore retail sales up 7.5% in October but F&B takings down amid Covid-19 dine-in curbs

The estimated total retail sales value in October was $3.6 billion. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Retail sales in Singapore saw better-than-expected growth in October despite tighter Covid-19 restrictions, partly due to higher mobile phone sales from new product launches.

Takings at the till rose 7.5 per cent year on year, extending the revised 6.8 per cent increase in September, according to data released by the Singapore Department of Statistics on Friday (Dec 3).

October's uptick in retail sales was stronger than the 4.4 per cent growth tipped by economists in a Bloomberg poll.

The continued recovery in October came amid Singapore's stabilisation phase, which started on Sept 27 and was later extended to Nov 21, during which restrictions such as a two-person cap on social gatherings were in place.

However, the tighter restrictions during this period weighed down the food and beverage (F&B) service sector, whose takings dropped in October.

Overall retail sales and F&B takings also remained below pre-Covid-19 levels.

Excluding motor vehicles, total retail sales climbed 11.4 per cent, compared with the 8.5 per cent increase in September.

On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, takings edged up 0.7 per cent in October over the previous month.

The estimated total retail sales value in October was $3.6 billion, of which an estimated 15.2 per cent was from online sales, slightly higher than the 15.1 per cent recorded in September.

OCBC chief economist Selena Ling said the better-than-expected October retail sales suggest that consumer appetite and purchasing power were less impacted by the stablisation period.

Most industries in the retail sector recorded year-on-year growth in October. In particular, the computer and telecommunications equipment segment surged 72.9 per cent, due mainly to higher mobile phone sales.

Computer and telecommunications equipment sales may continue to buoy overall retail sales into the latter months of 2021, Ms Ling said, noting that some consumers who have ordered electronic products such as the Apple iPhone 13 are still waiting for delivery of goods due to production delays arising from global chip shortages and Covid-19-related manufacturing plant shutdowns.

Watches and jewellery registered sales growth of 26.9 per cent, while petrol service station sales were up 16.3 per cent.

In contrast, sales of optical goods and books, as well as motor vehicles, declined during the period.

Meanwhile, F&B services sales in October shrank 4.5 per cent year on year, reversing the 4.5 per cent rise in September.

On a month-on-month seasonally adjusted basis, F&B turnover slid 5 per cent in October over the previous month. Up to five fully vaccinated diners were allowed to dine at F&B establishments for most of September.

The dip seen in October F&B takings is not entirely surprising, Ms Ling noted.

"But there may be light at the end of the tunnel as the (dining-in) rule has now been relaxed, first to allow five persons from same households, and then to allow five persons from different households," she added.

Within the F&B sector, restaurant takings fell 24 per cent year on year in October due to the tightened dine-in restrictions compared with last year.

Conversely, turnover of food caterers jumped 39 per cent due to the low base last year when catering demand was low.

Takings at fast-food outlets increased 10.1 per cent, while cafes, food courts and other eating places saw a 5 per cent rise. This was due to higher demand for food deliveries.

The total sales value of F&B services was estimated at $659 million in October, of which online sales made up 38.4 per cent, higher than September's 34.1 per cent.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said takings at cafes increased 10.1 per cent. It should be 5 per cent. We are sorry for the error.

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