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Retail sales flat, volumes fall

Embargoed until 10:45am – 15 May 2008

Retail sales flat, volumes fall

Seasonally adjusted total retail sales for the March 2008 quarter remained at the same level as the December 2007 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. A 4.7 percent ($163 million) increase in supermarket and grocery store sales offset a 6.9 percent ($147 million) decrease in motor vehicle retailing.

The seasonally adjusted core retail group (which excludes vehicle-related industries) rose 0.9 percent.

The total volume of seasonally adjusted retail sales fell 1.2 percent in the March 2008 quarter. This is the largest quarterly volume decrease since March 1997, and reflects that 17 of the 24 retail industries recorded decreased sales volumes this quarter, including a 6.0 percent decrease in motor vehicle retailing. The volume of sales per head of population fell 1.5 percent in the March 2008 quarter.

The total retail sales trend has eased following a period of strong growth in late 2006 and early 2007. The trend for total retail volumes, which had been generally rising since June 1998, has fallen 1.0 percent since the June 2007 quarter.

In the March month, seasonally adjusted total retail sales decreased 1.2 percent ($67 million). Motor vehicle retailing accounted for a large part ($35 million) of the fall in total retail sales. The automotive electrical services, smash repairing and tyre retailing industry and the automotive repair and services nec industry recorded decreases of 6.9 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Supermarket and grocery store sales fell 1.0 percent.

Easter has the potential to impact upon the seasonally adjusted retail trade figures when it falls in March (rather than April), as it has in 2008. Analysis has determined that the effect of this was minimal this year.

Geoff Bascand
Government Statistician
15 May 2008


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