Singapore’s retail sales up 7.5% in October on handset launches; still below pre-pandemic levels

SINGAPORE’S retail sales rose 7.5 per cent year on year in October, picking up from 6.8 per cent in the month before, in part as new product launches boosted mobile phone sales.

On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, retail sales were up by 0.7 per cent, cooling against 6.1 per cent in September.

Retail sales came to S$3.6 billion in all, with online sales making up 15.2 per cent, although the Department of Statistics noted in its release on Friday (Dec 3) that the value still “remained below pre-Covid levels”.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales grew by 11.4 per cent year on year, or 2.3 per cent on a seasonally adjusted, monthly basis.

Most retail sales categories saw year-on-year growth, led by computer and telecommunications equipment, which jumped 72.9 per cent.

But motor vehicle sales were down by 13.1 per cent, and turnover for optical goods and books, recreational goods, mini-marts and convenience stores, and department stores also shrank.

On a month-on-month, seasonally adjusted basis, all categories posted an increase except for department stores, food and alcohol, motor vehicles, and optical goods and books.

Food and beverage services saw sales in October slip by 4.5 per cent year on year and 5 per cent on a seasonally adjusted, monthly basis, to S$659 million for the month.

Eateries were dragged down by the restaurants segment, which faced tighter dine-in restrictions than the year before, even as catering receipts jumped on low demand in the year-ago period:

  • Restaurants (-24 per cent)
  • Fast food outlets (10.1 per cent)
  • Food caterers (39 per cent)
  • Cafes, food courts and other eating places (5 per cent)

Selena Ling, chief economist at OCBC, said the “better-than-expected October retail sales” suggested that consumer appetite and spending power were not as affected by the social restrictions during the Covid-19 Stabilisation Phase.

But sales were “also partially skewed by the new product launches such as iPhone 13”, with computer and telecom equipment sales possibly supporting the retail sector through end-2021, she added.