Singapore retail sales rise 11% in 2021, snapping 3 years of decline

The estimated total retail sales value in December 2021 was $4.4 billion. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Retail sales in Singapore grew 11.1 per cent for the whole of 2021, after three straight years of decline. 

This was also a reversal of the 15.3 per cent drop in 2020, when the sector was battered by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In December last year, takings at the till grew at a faster pace, with the year-end festive season helping to boost sales, according to figures released by the Department of Statistics (SingStat) on Friday (Feb 4).

Retail sales in Singapore rose 6.7 per cent in December last year from the same month in 2020, a jump from the revised 2.2 per cent increase last November.

The outcome was better than the 4.6 per cent increase that analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales increased by 8.6 per cent, compared with the 4.5 per cent growth in November 2021.

OCBC chief economist Selena Ling said: “It is definitely a sign that private consumption is bouncing back, especially during the year-end festive season and notwithstanding Omicron. This is in line with improved growth and labour market prospects for 2022.”

But she added that it will be difficult to see a repeat of double-digit growth in 2022 unless there is a big pickup in visitor arrivals.

Most industries within the retail sector registered higher sales last December.

Sales of watches and jewellery rose the most, by 27.4 per cent, while petrol service stations saw a 23.6 per cent hike in sales, partly due to higher petrol prices, SingStat said.

Sales of cosmetics, toiletries and medical goods also jumped by 17 per cent, while retailers of wearing apparel and footwear saw sales go up by 16.8 per cent.

Department stores, which were badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, saw sales increase by 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, sales of food and alcohol also grew by 10.4 per cent.

On the other hand, sales of motor vehicles fell by 7.2 per cent. Retailers of optical goods and books also saw takings drop by 5 per cent.

The estimated total retail sales value in December 2021 was $4.4 billion.

Of this, online retail sales made up an estimated 14.6 per cent, which was lower than the 17.1 per cent recorded in November 2021 when there were major online shopping events such as 11.11.

Ms Ling said: “While the proportion of online shopping may fluctuate depending on the Covid-19 variant situation, it is unlikely to revert to the pre-Covid-19 levels as the hybrid model (both online and offline shopping) is here to stay.

“In particular, the top three segments with higher online sales are quite predictable - supermarkets, computer and telecommunications equipment, and household furniture, and should sustain.”

The sales of food and beverage services also increased, by 7.4 per cent year on year in December, compared with the 1 per cent growth in November.

Customers observing the five people dine-in rule at The Seletar Mall on Jan 12, 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales of food and beverage services grew 11.7 per cent last December over the previous month, due mainly to the lower base in November 2021 when there were stricter dine-in restrictions, SingStat observed.

All industries in the food and beverage services sector registered growth year on year.

Food caterers saw the largest jump in sales, of 47.2 per cent, due to the low base in December 2020 when demand for catering was low, SingStat said.

Restaurants saw takings grow by 9.1 per cent, while cafes, foodcourts and other eating places also registered an increase in sales, by 4.6 per cent.

The total sales value of food and beverage services in December 2021 was estimated at $855 million.

Of this, online food and beverage sales made up an estimated 28.6 per cent, compared with the 33.3 per cent recorded in November last year.

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