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Decline in Singapore's retail sales deepens in September on lower mobile phone sales

Amala Balakrishner
Amala Balakrishner11/5/2020 01:24 PM GMT+08  • 3 min read
Decline in Singapore's retail sales deepens in September on lower mobile phone sales
The decline in retail sales worsened in September, reversing from the lower declines seen in the previous months.
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Singapore’s retail sales activity remained in the red in September, widening from the contractions registered in the previous months.

The total retail sales value plunged 10.8% year-on-year in September, making this the metric’s seventh consecutive month of decline. It is also a larger fall from the 5.7% contraction registered in August, data released by the Department of Statistics (Singstat) on Nov 5 revealed.

The poorer poor performance comes from poorer sales of mobile phones compared to the high base in September 2019 when there were new mobile phone launches, Singstat notes.

This translated to a 22.9% year-on-year plunge in sales from the Computer & Telecommunications Equipment Industry.

Similarly, sales at department stores nosedived 39.8% on year, despite measures permitting in-store shopping.

These stores are feeling the heat of a poorer footfall due to low tourist visits and as domestic consumers increasingly turn to e-commerce platforms for their purchases.

This has seen the closure of big international labels such as Zara and Espirit and more recently, the 162 year old Robinsons department store.

Other consumer sectors remained in the doldrums too, with spending declining on cosmetics, toiletries and medical goods (-30.0%), wearing apparel (-28.4%), optical goods and books (-18.3%), petrol station services (-16.9%) and watches and jewelry (-15.6%).

By contrast, bright spots were seen in spending at supermarkets and hypermarkets (+17.9%), furniture and household equipment (10.9%) and recreational goods (+6.0%) amid heightened demand for these items as most consumers continued working from home and looked to adopt an active lifestyle

Meanwhile, sales at minimarts and convenience stores came in flat while that of motor vehicles inched up by 0.2% from the year before.

As such, excluding motor vehicle sales, September’s retail sales plummeted deeper by 12.7% year-on-year.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, Singapore’s retail sales index was down 4.5%. Excluding motor vehicles, the metric was down by 4.2%

To this end, total sales volume in September came in at $3.2 billion – down marginally from August’s $3.4 billion. Of this, 11.2% came from purchases made online, Singstat shares.

A substantial portion – 46.9% - of these were of computer and telecommunications equipment. This comes as people sourced for IT and teleconferencing gadgets to support their work-from-home arrangements.

Furniture and household equipment logged the next highest digital sales of 24.8% presumably as consumers became self-sufficient as they stayed home.

Meanwhile, the food and beverage services index – a separate metric – saw takings contract 29.9% year-on-year in September to $629 million.

The slide in receipts were seen across the board, although food caterers were the hardest hit with turnover dropping an eye-popping 78.2% from the year before. This is a result of the lower demand for event catering due to the restrictions on large-scale events and gatherings.

Takings of other food services such as restaurants and fast food joints similarly dropped 33.1% and 17.6% respectively.

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, the metric was down 1.2% as patronage at food joints tapered off in September.

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