No Christmas cheer for retailers as retail sales slide 6% in December; 2018 sales slip 0.7%

Car sales took the biggest hit, tumbling 20.7 per cent year on year.
Car sales took the biggest hit, tumbling 20.7 per cent year on year.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - It was a blue Christmas for the retail industry as sales slid 6 per cent in December, making for two straight months of year-on-year declines, according to figures released by the Singapore Department of Statistics on Tuesday (Feb 12).

December's fall in takings at the till was much sharper than the 3.6 per cent decline forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg. It is also the biggest year-on-year drop in sales since January 2018, where sales fell by 7.7 per cent.

For full-year 2018, retail sales slipped 0.7 per cent, although annual turnover registered a slight increase of 1.1 per cent when motor vehicles were left out. 

For December, car sales took the biggest hit as they did in November, tumbling 20.7 per cent year on year.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales declined 3 per cent.

Besides motor vehicles, all but one retail category saw lower year-on-year turnover.

The sales of computer and telecommunications equipment registered the second-highest drop in figures, declining 16.8 per cent year on year.

This was due to the "higher sales arising from major phone launches around the same period in 2017", the Department of Statistics noted.

Retailers of recreational goods saw sales slip by 5.8 per cent. Watch and jewellery sales fell by 5.7 per cent.

The furniture and household equipment industry saw takings drop by 3.9 per cent.

This was attributed to lower demand for sporting goods, jewellery and furniture, the department of Statistics said.

The only holdout, medical goods and toiletries sales registered a slight uptick in sales of 1.8 per cent compared to the previous year.

The total retail sales value in December last year was $4.3 billion. Of this figure, online retail sales made up an estimated 5.5 per cent.

Compared to the same period in 2017, the sales of food and beverage services increased by 4.5 per cent in December.

The total sales value of food and beverage services in December last year was estimated at $925 million, compared to $886 million in December 2017.