Retail sales down 3% in Nov amid slow sales of cars, tech devices

A queue for beauty vouchers at Tangs in Orchard Road on Black Friday, Nov 23 last year. Department stores registered a rise of 8.7 per cent in sales compared with the same period in 2017, though retail sales fell 3 per cent.
A queue for beauty vouchers at Tangs in Orchard Road on Black Friday, Nov 23 last year. Department stores registered a rise of 8.7 per cent in sales compared with the same period in 2017, though retail sales fell 3 per cent.ST FILE PHOTO

Retail sales fell in November last year, after two months of year-on-year growth, according to figures released by the Singapore Department of Statistics yesterday.

Takings at the till dipped by 3 per cent compared with November 2017, dropping further than Bloomberg's 2.4 per cent forecast.

Car sales registered a big drop, declining 15.1 per cent year on year. Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales decreased at just 0.2 per cent.

Assistant Professor of Finance from the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University, Aurobindo Ghosh, said: "Global uncertainty, including headwinds to trade and tariffs and slowdown in the emerging markets, might be a reason for the general decline in retail."

He added that car sales might have dropped due to a boom period in the last few months, a slight increase in petrol prices and the availability of alternatives like Grab and other ride-hailing and car sharing services.

The sales of computer and telecommunications equipment also registered disappointing figures, falling 22.1 per cent.

This fall is partly due to high sales in November 2017, when there were major mobile phone launches.

Prof Ghosh added: "The drop in telecommunications and technology equipment is probably part of a global slowdown. For example, there were lower sales of new iPhones, (such as)... the iPhone XS, compared with the booming sales in the previous year, which also led to a decline in Apple stock prices."

However, department stores registered an increase of 8.7 per cent in sales compared with the same period in 2017, arising partially from higher sales during the Black Friday period.

The medical goods and toiletries industry also saw a rise of 4.8 per cent, due mainly to higher sales of cosmetics and toiletries.

Mr Joseph Incalcaterra, chief economist for Asean at HSBC Global Research, said the rise suggests an underlying growth in disposable consumption.

Sales at petrol service stations increased 3.1 per cent as a result of higher petrol prices, but recorded a small decline of 0.7 per cent in sales volume after removing the price effect.

The total retail sales value in November last year was about $3.8 billion. Of this number, online retail sales made up an estimated 6.6 per cent.

Compared with the same period in 2017, sales of food and beverage services increased 2.4 per cent in November last year.

The total sales value of food and beverage services last November was estimated at $845 million, compared with $826 million in the same month in 2017.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 'Retail sales down 3% in Nov amid slow sales of cars, tech devices'. Print Edition | Subscribe