Singapore retail sales hit all-time low

6 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

SINGAPORE: Singapore retailers crashed to an all-time low in May, as revenue was more than halved on the year before.

Receipts posted a ghastly plunge of 52.1 per cent - the worst since records began in 1986, the Department of Statistics (SingStat) said on Friday, report agencies.

As stores warily reopen after a two-month quasi-lockdown, the hope is that the only direction left is up. Yet it’s far too early to shout “ka-ching!”, industry watchers warn, despite hopes of a “revenge buying” spree in June from pent-up demand.

Singapore shuttered all non-essential businesses and limited food and beverage (F&B) operators to delivery and takeaway services in April and May, in a “circuit breaker” meant to contain the deadly novel coronavirus.

But the public health move came at a steep cost for an industry that was already shrinking since last year.

Even with big-ticket motor vehicle purchases excluded, May’s fall in retail sales was 45.2 per cent. Supermarkets and hypermarkets, as well as mini-marts and convenience stores, were the only types of retailers to post revenue growth for the month.

All other segments saw double-digit decreases of as much as 96.9 per cent for watches and jewellery, 93.4 per cent for department stores, and 89.1 per cent for clothing and shoes. The turnover declines, which exceeded the 40.3 per cent drop in April, were “due to circuit-breaker measures in May”, said SingStat.

Looking ahead, “the outlook for recovery remains bleak”, a spokeswoman for the Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) told The Business Times. She cited factors such as safe-distancing measures in stores and shopping malls, “which will reduce the opportunity for sales conversion”. Private-sector economists are still pencilling in a year-on-year slump in full-year retail sales, and the SRA said it expects discretionary retail purchases to still drop by more than 50 per cent in the next six months.

While Singapore started its three-stage economic reopening on June 2, Maybank Kim Eng economist Lee Ju Ye noted that people are still not venturing out of their homes as much as they did before the pandemic struck.