Singapore retail sales still lacklustre in April

Visitors at the Consumer Electronics Exhibition in Suntec Singapore last year. The sharp fall in demand for computer and telecommunications equipment was the main cause of lacklustre retail sales in April this year.
Visitors at the Consumer Electronics Exhibition in Suntec Singapore last year. The sharp fall in demand for computer and telecommunications equipment was the main cause of lacklustre retail sales in April this year.ST FILE PHOTO

Retail sales continued their lacklustre streak in April with turnover ticking up just 0.4 per cent over the same month last year.

The main cause was the sharp fall in demand for computer and telecommunications equipment.

April's performance followed March's revised 1.1 per cent drop and came in below economist expectations of a 2.1 per cent growth. Excluding motor vehicle sales, retail takings inched up 0.7 per cent in April, according to Singapore Department of Statistics data yesterday.

Performance was a mixed bag across the sector with a 9.8 per cent decline in sales of computer and telecoms equipment followed by wearing apparel and footwear, down 3.4 per cent, supermarkets and hypermarkets (-2.3 per cent) and department stores (-1.7 per cent). Petrol service stations were the top performer with sales growth of 8.5 per cent, due partly to higher fuel prices. After removing the price effect, there was an increase of 2.4 per cent.

On a month-on-month basis, retail sales fared even worse, decreasing 0.2 per cent in April. Excluding motor vehicles, they fell 1.7 per cent.

Based on seasonally adjusted data, industries that recorded declines include department stores (-8.7 per cent), furniture and household equipment (-5.6 per cent), optical goods and books (-3.9 per cent) and food retailers (-3.8 per cent).

The total retail sales value in April was estimated at $3.6 billion, with online turnover accounting for about 4.4 per cent.

Despite retail's rather muted first quarter, Maybank Kim Eng economist Lee Ju Ye said private consumption could be stronger than what the data indicated. The online sales proportion of 4.4 per cent may not fully capture the e-commerce sales here as foreign-registered retailers are not included, she said.

"Given that the labour market is improving and wages are rising, we expect it to be a positive story for retail sales in the second half of the year," she added.

June in particular could see an uptick due to the Trump-Kim Summit: "It would probably provide a boost, very much like the F1 (Grand Prix), but not that much."

Aside from the retail sales index, the food and beverage services index also performed poorly in April. It dipped 1.2 per cent from a year ago due to a drop in restaurant spending. On a month-on-month basis, it fell 3.4 per cent.

The total sales value of food and beverage services in April was estimated at $662 million, lower than the $670 million in April last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore retail sales still lacklustre in April'. Print Edition | Subscribe