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Retail Sales Ease

Retail Trade Survey - May 2000

Retail trade figures for May 2000 show the pattern of growth in the underlying sales trend apparent since May 1998 is now easing according to Statistics New Zealand.

This slowing of growth is particularly evident when the motor vehicle storetypes are excluded. The level of trend sales, however remains well above that recorded a year earlier with total sales up 6.5 per cent and sales excluding motor vehicle storetypes up 4.7 per cent.

Seasonally adjusted retail sales for May 2000 were $3,581 million, an increase of 0.8 per cent compared to April 2000. Excluding the motor vehicle storetypes, retail sales were virtually unchanged.

Motor vehicle retailing contributed strongly to the May 2000 result. With seasonal variations removed, sales are 5.2 per cent ahead of April 2000. This follows three months of declining sales. Imports of cars continue to increase, although, there is a change to the composition with a greater proportion of new cars imported in May 2000 when compared to 1999. Despite a depreciating exchange rate the Consumers Price Index recorded a slight decrease in the costs of a new car in the March 2000 quarter. Used car prices increased by 1.8 per cent over the same period.

Changes in seasonally adjusted retail sales within the storetypes are evenly divided this month with seven rises and seven falls. Interestingly, department stores, which have been one of the storetypes showing the strongest pattern of sales growth in recent years, are now slowing markedly. There is considerable variation in the sales performance within this storetype. Department stores report facing tough competition with increasing interest rates and higher petrol prices squeezing household budgets.

Since December 1999 the underlying sales trend for department stores has declined by 0.6 per cent, however, annual growth remains strong. This year's annual growth in trend of 9.6 per cent is only surpassed by the 1998/99 year when retailers began parallel importing and a number of new stores opened. Department stores now take a larger share of retail spending than four years ago and the number of outlets has increased about 9 per cent since August 1998.

Ian Ewing

DEPUTY GOVERNMENT STATISTICIAN

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