Takings at the till sank in February, with the coronavirus outbreak causing the steepest month-on-month fall in 12 years, according to figures released by the Department of Statistics (Singstat) on Friday (April 3).
Retail sales slid for the 13th consecutive month, by 8.6 per cent, compared with the same period last year.
Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales fell by a larger 10.2 per cent.
From the previous month and seasonally adjusted, retail sales in February fell 8.9 per cent, the biggest drop since July 2007.
“The decrease is mainly attributed to larger year-on-year declines in retail industries selling discretionary items, due to the decline in tourist arrivals and lower domestic consumption as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak,” Singstat said.
Travel bans came into force in February, with tourism-related sectors starting to be hit hard by the fall in Chinese visitors, while retailers saw thinning crowds due to Singapore raising its alert level from Dorscon yellow to orange that month.
Most retail industries saw sales declining, except for segments like supermarkets where panic-buying boosted takings.
Sales of wearing apparel and footwear plunged the most, by 41 per cent. This was closely followed by the sales of food and alcohol, which decreased 40.5 per cent year-on-
Department stores recorded falling takings of 36.3 per cent, while the sellers of watches and jewellery also saw sales fall by 23.8 per cent.
Cosmetic, toiletries and medical goods sellers, together with retailers of recreation goods, optical goods and books and computer and telecommunications equipment, saw sales declining as well.
But supermarkets and hypermarkets saw sales rise by 15.5 per cent, with the boost from customers panic-buying when the Dorscon level was raised to orange on Feb 7.
Furniture and household equipment sales also edged up, by 5.9 per cent, while petrol service stations recorded increasing sales of 3.9 per cent.
Food and beverage services were also hard hit by the coronavirus outbreak as people chose to dine in or takeaway rather than eat out.
Reversing an increase in January, the sale of such services slid steeply by 16.6 per cent, with food caterers leading the drop with a fall of 31. 5 per cent. Restaurants also saw takings decline, by 29.1 per cent.
But fast food outlets saw sales rise by 5.8 per cent.
The total sales value of food and beverage services in February was estimated at $732 million. Of these, online food and beverage sales made up an estimated 12.5 per cent.
Online sales continued to surge as consumers tried to stay home. The estimated total retail sales value in February was about $3.1 billion. Of these, online retail sales made up an estimated 7.4 per cent, up from 5.8 per cent in January.
Online retail takings of the computer and telecommunications equipment, in particular, made up 30.4 per cent of its sales.
To support hard-hit sectors such as retail, the Government announced that it was putting in an additional $48 billion during the supplementary budget last month, on top of the $6.4 billion announced in February.
Firms will receive wage subsidies of between 25 per cent and 75 per cent for all local workers. Firms in the food services sector, including hawker stalls, will receive higher support, at 50 per cent of wages.
Stallholders at hawker centres and markets, as well as eligible commercial tenants, will get enhanced rental waivers, with those eligible will receive three months of such waivers, with a minimum waiver of $200 per month.
Author: Sue-Ann Tan, Straitstimes.com