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Singapore's retail sales rise 79.7% in May after 2020 circuit breaker store closures

Singapore's retail sales rise 79.7% in May after 2020 circuit breaker store closures

Shoppers in protective face masks walking along People's Park Complex. (File photo: Calvin Oh)

SINGAPORE: Retail sales in Singapore rose 79.7 per cent in May, with the growth due to the low base in the same period last year when physical stores were closed during the COVID-19 "circuit breaker" period. 

According to official data released on Monday (Jul 5), retail sales growth in May also recorded higher than the 54 per cent rise last month

The "large growth" in May was attributed to the low base in May last year, when Singapore entered a circuit breaker period to contain the COVID-19 outbreak and physical stores were closed for the whole month, said the Department of Statistics (SingStat).

In May 2020, Singapore’s total retail sales fell a record 52.1 per cent on a year-on-year basis. The drop was the steepest since records began in 1986, beating April’s previous record of 40.5 per cent. 

Retail sales in 2021 continued to be below "pre-COVID levels", said SingStat.

Excluding motor sales, retail sales rose 61.6 per cent in May, compared to the 39.2 per cent growth in the previous month. 

Online retail sales of computer and telecommunications equipment, furniture and household equipment, as well as supermarkets and hypermarkets industries made up 54.4 per cent, 30.7 per cent and 12.1 per cent of the total sales of their respective industry. 

READ: Singapore's 2021 economic growth could exceed forecast of 4% to 6%: Central bank chief


All retail industries recorded significant year-on-year increases, except for supermarkets and hypermarkets as well as mini-marts and convenience stores. This was due to the low base in May 2020 when most physical stores were closed for the whole month. 

Supermarket and hypermarket sales fell 12.1 per cent while mini-mart and convenience store sales fell 9.2 per cent in May as compared to the same month in 2020, due to higher demand for groceries last year as more people stayed home during the circuit breaker.

Watch and jewellery sales saw the highest year-on-year increase among all the industries, recording a rise of 2,090 per cent. 

On a seasonally adjusted month-to-month basis, most retail industries recorded declines in sales for May due to the implementation of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures from May 16. 

Singapore implemented tighter measures from May 16 to Jun 13, labelled Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), after a spike of COVID-19 cases in the community were reported. 

Sales of discretionary industries such as department stores, wearing apparel and footwear, as well as watches and jewellery fell between 21.1 per cent and 27.9 per cent, said SingStat. 

READ: Singapore's core inflation increases at a faster pace in May

In contrast, retailers of computers and telecommunications equipment reported higher sales of 18.9 per cent. Supermarkets and hypermarkets also recorded an increase in sales of 12.3 per cent, mainly due to a higher demand for computers and groceries. 

(Image: SingStat)

The estimated total retail sales value in May was about S$3.3 billion, with online retail sales making up an estimated 13.7 per cent compared to the 11.2 per cent recorded in April. 

Excluding motor vehicles, the total retail sales value in May was about S$2.8 billion, with online retail sales making up 16.1 per cent.


Sales of food & beverage (F&B) services rose 46.4 per cent in May 2021 on a year-on-year basis, compared to the 73.8 per cent increase last month. 

"The strong growth in F&B sales was attributed to the low base in May 2020 during the circuit breaker period, when dining-in at F&B establishments was not allowed for the whole month," said SingStat. 

READ: F&B outlets 'very happy' to resume dine-in amid 'challenging' two-people rule

However, F&B sales continued to be below pre-COVID-19 levels. 

On a seasonally adjusted basis, sales of F&B services fell 14.1 per cent in May over the previous month, due to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) measures in place from May 16, when dining-in was not allowed. 

The total sales value of F&B services in May was estimated at S$617 million, with online F&B sales making up an estimated 38.8 per cent. 

This was higher compared to last month, when a rise of 24.6 per cent was recorded, as more people ordered food online when dining-in was not allowed during the Phase 2 (Heightened Alert) period. 

All F&B services industries, except for food caterers, recorded "significant" year-on-year growths in sales in May. This was attributed to the low base in 2020 when F&B establishments operated on a takeaway or delivery basis for the entire month. 

Food caterer sales fell 52.3 per cent in May 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, when there was higher demand for catered meals in foreign worker dormitories.

(Image: SingStat)

On a seasonally adjusted month-on-month basis, turnover of restaurants, cafes, food courts and other eating places, as well as fast food outlets, fell between 1.5 per cent and 26.4 per cent in May. 

SingStat said this was because dining-in was not allowed from May 16. Similarly, sales of food caterers fell 3.6 per cent during this period. 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that the total sales value of F&B services in May was an estimated S$617 billion. This has been corrected.

Source: CNA/lk(hs)


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