SINGAPORE - Retail sales continued to recover in March as the Singapore economy rebounded, though the figures were boosted by the comparison with the situation a year ago when Covid-19 safe distancing measures began and border restrictions were in place.
Takings at the till grew by 6.2 per cent in March on a year-on-year basis, compared with the revised 5.3 per cent increase recorded in February, according to data out on Wednesday (May 5).
This made for a second consecutive month of retail sales growth after a 24-month-long year-on-year slide.
Excluding motor vehicles, sales increased 4.4 per cent in March.
Almost all segments registered jumps in turnover, with the sales of watches and jewellery jumping the most, by 60.2 per cent.
This was followed by the sales of apparel and footwear, which increased by 35.6 per cent.
This was due to the lower base in March 2020 when there were low tourism receipts arising from tightened border restrictions, said the Department of Statistics (SingStat).
Sales of recreational goods grew by 28.3 per cent, while takings by retailers of computer and telecommunications equipment increased by 19.9 per cent.
Petrol service stations registered an increase of 18.6 per cent, while vehicle sales went up by 15.6 per cent.
But sales at supermarkets and hypermarkets reversed their growth streak from last year, and dropped by 14 per cent.
This was in comparison with March 2020 when there were higher sales as more people stayed home after safe distancing measures were introduced, SingStat noted.
Sales of cosmetics, toiletries and medical goods also fell, by 13.2 per cent.
On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, SingStat observed that most retail industries recorded growths in sales.
"Discretionary industries such as motor vehicles, watches and jewellery, wearing apparel and footwear and department stores recorded growths in sales of between 5.2 per cent and 7.8 per cent, attributed to higher domestic spending given overseas travel restrictions," it said.
But sales of furniture and household equipment declined during this period, as demand for furniture slowed down, with more people returning to the workplace, it added.
Meanwhile, sales of food and beverage services grew by 8 per cent year on year in March, a reversal from the 3.4 per cent decline in February.
This growth was mainly attributed to the lower sales in March 2020 when safe distancing measures were first introduced to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, SingStat said.
Restaurant sales grew by 17.9 per cent, while cafes, food courts and other eating places saw takings rise by 5.6 per cent.
But food caterers continued to suffer a slide in sales, of 25 per cent.
The total sales value of food and beverage services in March was estimated at $730 million, with online sales making up an estimated 23.5 per cent.
The estimated total retail sales value in March was about $3.5 billion. Of this, online retail sales made up an estimated 11.8 per cent.