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Singapore retail sales continue slump in April

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Singapore retail sales were down 1.8 per cent year on year in April, deepening from March's 1 per cent fall and worse than economists' expectations of a 0.2 per cent decline, according to a Department of Statistics (Singstat) release on Wednesday. Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales were down 2 per cent year on year.

SINGAPORE retail sales were down 1.8 per cent year on year in April, deepening from March's 1 per cent fall and worse than economists' expectations of a 0.2 per cent decline, according to a Department of Statistics (Singstat) release on Wednesday. Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales were down 2 per cent year on year.

Total retail sales takings in April were S$3.5 billion, with online sales making up 5.4 per cent.

April's slump was broad-based, with most categories seeing sales fall. The biggest decreases were for computer and telecommunications equipment (-6.7 per cent) and furniture and household equipment (-6.5 per cent), which Singstat said was due partly to lower sales of mobile phones and furniture.

OCBC Bank economist Howie Lee noted that the poor showing for computer and telecommunications equipment - in other words, electronics - has not been limited to local retail sales. "Global demand for electronics, particularly smartphones, has been waning as the sector enters a cyclical downturn," he said, noting that domestic exports of electronics have also been sluggish.

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Also down were sales of food retailers (-3.5 per cent), optical goods and books (-3.2 per cent) and department stores (-3.1 per cent).

Bucking the trend was the wearing apparel and footwear industry, which grew by 3.4 per cent due partly to higher demand for bags and footwear.

But on a seasonally adjusted basis, retail sales were up 0.5 per cent in April compared to March, or down a marginal 0.1 per cent excluding motor vehicles.

"Given external headwinds from an uncertain macroeconomic environment – especially with Sino-US tensions now more aggravated – we expect the local retail sales picture to remain bleak in the near-term as consumers tighten their purse strings," said Mr Lee. OCBC's forecast is for full-year retail sales to shrink 0.5 per cent.

Separately, food and beverage services saw takings rise 3.1 per cent in April compared to a year ago, or 0.4 per cent on a month on month, seasonally adjusted basis.

The total sales value for food and beverage services was estimated at S$826 million in April. Fast food outlets led growth with turnover rising 8.2 per cent year on year, in contrast to restaurants which saw a marginal 0.1 per cent rise.