Business

Retail sales down for ninth straight month

They fall 4.3% in October, worse than the 1.5% drop expected by analysts

Takings at the till slid for the ninth straight month in October, but it may not be all doom and gloom for the rest of the year, experts said.

Retail sales fell 4.3 per cent compared with the same month last year - worse than the 1.5 per cent decline predicted by analysts polled by Bloomberg and the 2.2 per cent slip in September.

If motor vehicle sales are excluded, retail sales would be down 0.6 per cent year on year, worse than September's revised 0.1 per cent dip, the Department of Statistics said yesterday.

CIMB Private Banking economist Song Seng Wun said: "We might see another month of contraction in November, but the first positive (since January) could be seen in December due to the earlier Chinese New Year."

Spending for the Christmas and Chinese New Year season is likely to result in stronger numbers this month, but it could be a brief recovery before retail outlays fall back into negative territory next month, he added.

"But we might see signs of stability from the second quarter of next year," Mr Song said, noting that there could be marginal positive growth in overall retail sales.

Maybank Kim Eng economist Lee Ju Ye noted: "The (retail) sector is showing signs of bottoming out, partly due to low base effects starting in the fourth quarter of last year and as the labour market appears to be relatively resilient with employment for the third quarter rising by the most in nearly five years."

CAR SALES

She noted that the decline in retail takings was due largely to the plunge in car sales and steeper falls in discretionary items such as furniture and household equipment.

Motor vehicle sales tumbled 22.7 per cent in October compared with the same month last year due to a smaller certificates of entitlement quota for the August to October period, the Statistics Department said.

Furniture and household equipment revenue slid 10.6 per cent.

One of the bright spots in October, as it has been for most of the year, was the sales of food and beverage services, which grew 4.5 per cent.

It was led by a 7.9 per cent increase in turnover for fast-food outlets and 6.1 per cent rise in restaurant earnings.

The total sales value of food and beverage services in October was estimated at $893 million, compared with $854 million in the same month last year.

BUSINESS & FINANCE