Singapore sees strongest retail sales growth in 1 1/2 years

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/ANN) - The 6th straight month of expansion is the latest sign that the Singapore economy could be picking up.

Retail sales in August grew at their fastest pace in nearly 11/2 years, in the latest sign that the Singapore economy could be picking up.

Retailers saw takings rise 3.5 per cent from the same month a year earlier - the strongest growth rate since March 2016 and the sixth straight month of expansion.

Motor vehicle sales rose 2.8 per cent year on year in August, better than the 0.3 per cent increase in July, according to Department of Statistics data released yesterday (Oct 12).

Excluding auto sales, August retail takings grew 3.7 per cent over a year earlier, compared with July's 2 per cent improvement.

There were increases across multiple segments with petrol service stations the best performers, with sales rising 9.5 per cent compared with the same month a year earlier.

Recreational goods sales were up 8.3 per cent, while sellers of medical goods and toiletries recorded a 7.6 per cent increase.

Sales of computer and telecommunications equipment, furniture and household goods as well as clothing and footwear also went up, while department stores and supermarkets also did better year on year.

Some segments did less well. Takings were lower at mini-marts and convenience stores, food retailers, as well as sellers of watches and jewellery and optical goods and books.

Oversea-China Bank Corporation (OCBC) economist Selena Ling said August's strong showing was partly due to a low base last year but the pick-up might continue in the coming months.

"Retail sales growth may sustain in the fourth quarter amid the festive season and provide some cheer to domestic retailers," she noted.

"Given that the domestic labour market is holding up and there are tentative signs of reflation in the private residential property market of late, domestic private consumption should be relatively resilient going forward."

In addition, total visitor arrivals hit a record high of 1.63 million in July and reached 10.18 million for the first seven months of the year, "so this also portends well for tourism-related expenditure in the local economy", said Ms Ling.