Singapore retail sales dip in May, breaking three-month streak

SINGAPORE – Takings at the till fell in May, breaking a three-month streak of increases as overall retail sales continue to decelerate.

Month on month, May’s overall takings decreased by 0.2 per cent from April on a seasonally adjusted basis. In comparison, April’s overall takings increased 0.3 per cent from March.

However, retail sales for May grew on a year-on-year basis at 1.8 per cent, with an estimated total retail sales value of $4 billion, according to figures released by the Department of Statistics on Wednesday.

Of this, online retail sales made up an estimated 11.8 per cent, slightly lower than the 11.9 per cent recorded in April.

DBS Bank economist Chua Han Teng said that retail activity has benefitted from the ongoing travel recovery, while domestic demand continues to be supported by a healthy labour market amid a low unemployment rate.

“However, retail sales growth has already peaked, and May’s year on year moderation reflected less supportive base effects,” he said.

“Going forward, retail sales momentum should still be held up by further recuperation in foreign visitor arrivals, particularly spurred by returning Chinese tourists, even though there could be pressures from a softer labour market amid global economic uncertainty.”

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales gained 1.8 per cent year on year, though lower than April (4.3 per cent ) and March (4 per cent).

The biggest increases in May year on year came from alcohol, cosmetics, toiletries (24.9 per cent) and medical goods (13.1 per cent).

This was largely driven by a higher demand for alcoholic products and cosmetics and toiletries, including those sold in duty-free shops.

Sales of apparel and footwear, as well as recreational goods, decreased 6.4 per cent and 5.6 per cent month on month respectively in May.

However, sales of optical goods and books as well as computer and telecommunications equipment and furniture and household equipment grew between 2.4 per cent and 2.9 per cent on a month-on-month basis.

Sales at petrol service stations recorded a yearly decline of 18.2 per cent, partly due to lower petrol prices.

 Meanwhile, the food and beverage sector also saw continued growth compared with last year, albeit at a slower rate.

Sales of food and beverage services rose 8.5 per cent in May on a year on year basis, lower than the 15.3 per cent increase in April.

Food caterers registered the largest growth in sales of 56.3 per cent, due mainly to higher demand for in-flight catering.

The increase was lower than the 61.4 per cent seen in April, and the 77.4 per cent seen in March.