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SINGAPORE's retail sales fell unexpectedly in October after growing in September as buyers avoided buying motor vehicles. The Department of Statistics said yesterday that seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 3.2 per cent in October compared to September when it rose 0.6 per cent from August. Stripping out motor vehicles, retail sales fell marginally by 0.5 per cent in October compared to the 2.4 per cent drop in September.
Some economists polled had predicted a 0.9 per cent increase for October. "The trend is consistent with the general sentiment in Singapore, where people are a lot more cautious," Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG Asia said.
Retailers of motor vehicles suffered a seasonally adjusted double-digit decline of 17.3 per cent in October compared to September, when they enjoyed 19.1 per cent growth.
Ms Teoh believed that most car buyers would have made their purchases ahead of the changes to the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), the right to own a vehicle in Singapore. She expects car sales to remain flat in the ensuing months.
Retail sales of watches & jewellery, recreational goods, medical goods & toiletries, petrol service stations, food & beverages and wearing apparel & footwear decreased between 1.3 per cent and 3.9 per cent in October compared to September. This could be the trend ahead as online stores make their presence felt. "These online stores offer huge discounts. The impact is great given Singapore is very connected," Ms Teoh said.
In contrast, retail sales of telecommunications apparatus & computers and of department stores increased 8 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively compared to September.
Year-on-year, retail sales declined 9.4 per cent in October, also due to lower motor vehicles sales. Excluding the latter which fell 39.6 per cent from a year ago, retail sales went down by 0.9 per cent. The total retail sales value in October was estimated at $2.9 billion, lower than the $3.2 billion a year ago.
Compared to October last year, retailers of motor vehicles and telecommunications apparatus & computers reported double-digit declines in sales of 39.6 per cent and 13.2 per cent respectively this October.
Retail sales of furniture & household equipment, watches & jewellery and wearing apparel & footwear decreased between 1.4 per cent and 4.4 per cent over the previous year.
However, retail sales of food & beverages, optical goods & books, department stores, supermarkets, petrol service stations and medical goods & toiletries increased between 1.2 per cent and 4.4 per cent in October this year over last year.
Sales of food & beverage services on a seasonally adjusted basis decreased 0.6 per cent in October compared to September. Restaurants, food caterers and other eating places (such as cafes and canteens), recorded decreases in receipts of between 0.6 per cent and one per cent in October compared to the previous month.Turnover of fast food outlets increased slightly by 0.8 per cent in October over September.
Compared to October last year, sales of food & beverage services rose 2.2 per cent, with all categories recording growth. Total sales value of food & beverage services in October this year was estimated at $600 million, higher than the $587 million in October last year.