Supermarkets, F&B lift January retail sales

FairPrice shoppers during the Chinese New Year period in late January. The festive period could be behind the segment's positive retail performance that month.
FairPrice shoppers during the Chinese New Year period in late January. The festive period could be behind the segment's positive retail performance that month.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Slight uptick in takings - but economist mindful of CNY effects

Retail sales lifted slightly in January, thanks to better performances from a range of sectors.

Takings increased by 2 per cent over the same month last year, with food and beverage (F&B) outlets and supermarkets racking up double-digit growth - possibly owing to the Chinese New Year festive season, which began at the end of the month.

Food caterers enjoyed the biggest year-on-year growth, with sales up by 9.4 per cent from a year earlier, but takings in cafes inched up by only 0.2 per cent.

Retail sales totalled an estimated $4.1 billion in January, higher than the $4 billion in the same month last year. Motor vehicle sales increased by 2.1 per cent from the same month last year.

If vehicle sales are excluded, retail takings still rose by 2 per cent in January, over the same month a year earlier.

  • 2%

    Increase in retail takings in January over the same month last year.

    $4.1b

    Total retail sales in January

    -9.7%

    Performance of the furniture and household equipment segment - the weakest in the retail sector

Other segments shone as well, including petrol stations and medical goods and toiletries.

The worst performers were categories such as furniture and household equipment, which fell by 9.7 per cent in January compared with the same month a year earlier, and optical goods and books, down 8.8 per cent year on year.

However, retail takings in January could not match up to December, when they hit an estimated $4.2 billion.

F&B outlets recorded a 21.5 per cent drop in January, compared with the previous month. Including F&B, eight segments reported month-on-month falls, including minimarts and convenience stores, where sales fell by 9.2 per cent in January against December.

Even though January's positive results showed a bright start to the year for retailers, OCBC economist Selena Ling noted: "Given the seasonal effects for the January-February period, we would hesitate to overinterpret the data."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Supermarkets, F&B lift January retail sales'. Print Edition | Subscribe