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Retail spending holds up in March

Higher spending at department stores and on hardware and building supplies this summer helped boost overall spending by 0.7 percent in the March 2019 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

The steady rise in total retail sales volumes followed a strong increase of 1.7 percent in the December 2018 quarter, after adjusting for price and seasonal effects.

“In the March quarter, two industries with the largest increases were partly offset by two industries with the largest falls,” retail statistics manager Sue Chapman said.

The largest volume movements came from:
• department stores, up 4.4 percent
• hardware, building, and garden supplies, up 3.0 percent
• pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing, down 5.7 percent
• accommodation, down 4.7 percent.

Department stores, and hardware, building, and garden supplies, both recovered from having the largest falls in the December 2018 quarter.

“Consumer-spending patterns may reflect more gift-buying at department stores rather than spending on traditional florist or jewellery stores,” Ms Chapman said.

The fall in pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing contrasted with the 8.3 percent increase in the December 2018 quarter.

“The fall in this industry group includes lower sales from duty-free stores and for health and cosmetic products, so may reflect the slight dip in international visitor numbers,” Ms Chapman said.

See Visitor arrivals dip down in March for more on international visitor numbers.

Sales value reflects modest growth

When the effects of price changes are included, the seasonally adjusted value of total retail sales rose a modest 0.2 percent ($43 million). This comes after a stronger 1.8 percent ($429 million) rise in the December 2018 quarter.

Hardware and building supplies had the largest increase, up 2.8 percent ($59 million) after a 1.4 percent ($30 million) fall in the December 2018 quarter.

“More monthly building consents issued for new homes may have contributed to the rise in sales from the hardware and building supply stores,” Ms Chapman said.

Strong start to home consents in 2019 reported on the 44-year high on home consents for the year ended February 2019.

The next-largest increases in retail sales values came from supermarket and grocery stores, up 1.1 percent ($56 million), and department stores, up 2.9 percent ($39 million).

The only notable decrease came from the pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing industry, down 8.5 percent ($131 million). This decrease comes after an 11 percent ($149 million) rise in the December 2018 quarter.

In actual terms, the value of total retail sales was $24 billion in the March 2019 quarter, up 3.7 percent ($849 million) from the March 2018 quarter.

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