Taipei, July 23 (CNA) Sales in Taiwan's retail and food/beverage sectors in June posted the largest declines for the month in 22 years because of restrictions imposed to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) data released Friday.
Retail sales slumped 13.3 percent year-on-year to NT$266.4 billion (US$9.5 billion) in June, while food and beverage sales nosedived 39.9 percent to NT$38.3 billion, both the biggest drops for the month since these statistics were first compiled in 1999, MOEA figures showed.
MOEA Department of Statistics deputy chief Huang Wei-chieh attributed the plunge to bans on on-site dining and drinking at restaurants and stores and other restrictions imposed in mid-May under a Level 3 alert after COVID-19 cases surged to over 100 per day.
Under the Level 3 alert, the government has repeatedly urged people not to leave their homes to go out unless necessary, leading to sharp declines in visits to department stores, convenience stores and other retail businesses, Huang noted.
Department stores were particularly hard hit, posting an anemic NT$8.9 billion in sales in June, down 64.7 percent year-on-year and the lowest for the month since 1999 as many operators cut store hours or closed stores.
Meanwhile, convenience stores, which had to suspend dine-in services and sales of prepared foods to prevent the spread of COVID-19, saw their revenue decline 7.4 percent year-on-year to NT$28.3 billion in June.
The food/beverage sector also experienced a major downturn mainly because of the in-person dining ban, with sales in June falling 40.4 percent to NT$31.6 billion from June 2020.
The main beneficiaries of people staying home was e-commerce. The online retail sector saw sales rise 33.7 percent in June from a year earlier to NT$25.5 billion, Huang said.
Manufacturing strength helped wholesale sector sales rise 18.2 percent in June from a year earlier to NT$987.3 billion, the highest growth for the month since 1999, according to the MOEA data.
In July, retail sales are projected to fall 19-22 percent year-on-year while food/beverage sales should fall 43-46 percent, according to Huang, because of the COVID-19 restrictions and high base of comparison set in 2020, when consumers were freer to move around and acted on pent-up demand.
Although the nationwide COVID-19 alert will be lowered to Level 2 on July 27, the on-site dining ban will remain in place in some cities and counties, Huang said, meaning that food and beverage sales will likely struggle to rebound in August.