Sluggish car sales put the brakes on retail takings

PHOTO: Sluggish car sales put the brakes on retail takings

Takings at retailers here fell 7.8 per cent in August from the same month last year, dragged down by very sluggish car sales.

Motor vehicle sales plunged 41.5 per cent, according to data released by the Department of Statistics on Monday.

Retail sales have fallen in year-on-year terms every month this year except for May, which saw a 3 per cent expansion.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales were up 1.4 per cent in August year on year - the seventh straight month of growth.

On a month-on-month basis, retail sales were 3.6 per cent higher in August than July, and 3.3 per cent higher excluding car sales. UOB economist Francis Tan said vehicle sales are likely to have seen a slight uptick from last month onwards, on the back of changes to the certificate of entitlement (COE) system.

The new COE rules, announced last month, use engine power to differentiate mass-market and luxury cars. As a result, some car models will be moved into different categories; this will take effect next February.

"Potential buyers are likely to want to purchase cars before the recategorisation, as COE prices are expected to go up, especially for luxury cars," said Mr Tan.

Sellers of telecommunications apparatus and computers, and furniture and household equipment suffered revenue falls of 7.7 per cent and 7.1 per cent respectively, compared to August last year.

One bright spot was recreational goods retailers with an 11.2 per cent increase in sales.

Other fields recording an uptick in sales were food and beverages, optical goods and books, department stores, supermarkets, petrol service stations, provision andsundry shops and medical goods and toiletries. They rose between 2.1 per cent and 6.2 per cent year on year.

Sales of food and beverage services also rose 2.9 per cent in August compared with the same month last year, and fell slightly by 0.1 per cent over July.

All categories in the food and beverages sector recorded increases in receipts in August.

Turnover of fast-food outlets, food caterers, restaurants and other eating places grew between 1.9 per cent and 5.7 per cent over the same month last year.

Expectations of higher income, more upbeat consumer sentiment and healthy tourist arrivals will continue to boost retail sales over the rest of the year, said Mr Tan.

"Growth indicators are improving compared to last year, and the region is also picking up, which will boost tourism numbers."

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