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January Retail Sales Mixed Statistics - Stats NZ

New Zealand's retail trade figures for January 2000 show some growth in the trend in sales. However, results in recent months present a more uncertain picture with seasonally adjusted sales actually declining by 0.5 per cent in January.

Changes in consumer spending behaviour over the New Year have, in part, contributed to some variability in sales this month. Food retailing, hardware, chemists and motor vehicle services storetypes all recorded strong December results as people stocked up in preparation for Y2K and millennium celebrations. This has been followed by weaker than usual January results for these storetypes. These falls were partially offset by moderate increases in a number of areas including motor vehicle retailing, department stores and accommodation, hotels and liquor.

There is some evidence the pattern of steady growth evident in the September 1999 quarter is easing. The results in three of the last four months have indicated declining or flat sales levels with the exception of December, although this result was moderate rather than exceptional.

Motor vehicle retailing, the second largest storetype and one of the most variable, recorded an increase of 2.3 per cent in seasonally adjusted sales this month. Some of this increase in sales is likely to have been influenced by higher prices following a softening of the New Zealand dollar. The Trade Weighted Index has declined 1.6 per cent since September. This may result in upward pressure on prices and a downward influence on quantities, which can mean that sales values can either rise or fall depending on which effect dominates. Some price pressure is reflected in the Consumer Price Index which recorded higher prices for new and used cars in the December quarter.

Len Cook

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