(Singapore, May 5, 2020) Retail sales decreased 13.3% in March 2020 compared to March 2019, the biggest drop in 22 years, Singapore’s Department of Statistics announced today.

Excluding motor vehicles, retail sales fell 9.7%. The decline is mainly attributed to larger year-on-year declines in retail industries selling discretionary items, due to weaker domestic consumption and fewer tourist arrivals as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Compared to the previous month, seasonally adjusted retail sales declined 1.3% in March 2020. Excluding motor vehicles, seasonally adjusted retail sales increased 1.6%.

Source: Department of Statistics
Source: Department of Statistics

The estimated total retail sales value in March 2020 was about $3.3 billion. Of these, online retail sales made up an estimated 8.5%. Online retail sales of the Computer & Telecommunications Equipment, Furniture & Household Equipment industries and Supermarkets & Hypermarkets made up 41.2%, 16.5% and 7.5% of the total sales of their respective industry.

On a year-on-year basis, sales of the Wearing Apparel & Footwear, Food & Alcohol, Department Stores and Watches & Jewellery industries declined between 34.4% and 41.6% in March 2020, due mainly to decline in tourism receipts.

On the other hand, Supermarkets & Hypermarkets and Mini-marts & Convenience Stores experienced higher sales of 35.9% and 4.7% respectively in March 2020 due to higher demand for groceries as more people stay at home with safe distancing measures being implemented.

Based on seasonally adjusted data, sales of the Food & Alcohol and Motor Vehicles industries fell 21.6% and 16.4% respectively compared to February 2020.

Likewise, sales of the Optical Goods & Books industry declined 12.3%, mainly attributed to lower demand for books. Conversely, sales of Supermarkets & Hypermarkets, as well as the Computer & Telecommunications Equipment and Furniture & Household Equipment industries reported growths of between 9.3% and 13.1% due to higher demand for groceries, computers and household appliances as more people started telecommuting.