Business

Retail sales in May up 0.9%, pace slows

Retail sales rose for a third straight month in May, but at a much slower pace as brick-and-mortar stores here continued to be buffeted by the digital age.

Total retail turnover was $3.7 billion, up 0.9 per cent from May last year but below the revised 2.7 per cent rise in April year-on-year, according to the Department of Statistics data out yesterday.

A poll of 10 economists had forecast a 2.2 per cent rise in retail activity in May, but that was smashed by a broad fall in sales for food and consumer goods sellers.

Food retailers felt the biggest drag, with sales sliding 5.2 per cent in May from a year earlier. Spending on clothing and footwear dropped 4.5 per cent, and recreational goods sales dipped 3.3 per cent.

Overall, however, these effects were offset by an 11.3 per cent surge in sales at petrol service stations, a 4.5 per cent rise in sales of medical goods and toiletries as well as a 2.4 per cent pick-up in sales at department stores.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales rose 0.6 per cent from May last year.

The data seems to point to weaker consumer sentiment and a slowing recovery, but Maybank Kim Eng economist Chua Hak Bin noted that other consumer spending indicators seem to suggest the contrary. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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