NZ first-quarter retail sales grow 0.7%, slightly better than expected
By Rebecca Howard
May 22 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand's retail sales were slightly higher than expected in the first quarter amid increased spending at department stores and on hardware and building supplies.
Retail sales volumes rose a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in the March quarter from 1.7 percent in the December quarter, Stats NZ said. Economists had predicted a lift of 0.6 percent.
“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.
Spending at department stores was up 4.4 percent while spending on hardware, building and garden supplies lifted 3 percent. Both recovered from large falls in the prior quarter when department store spending dropped 2.4 percent and hardware, building and garden supplies spending declined 1.5 percent.
In the other direction, pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing was down 5.7 percent while accommodation was down 4.7 percent.
The fall in pharmaceutical and other store-based retailing contrasted with an 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,” Chapman said.
Visitor arrivals in March were down 10,100 compared with the same month a year earlier and were impacted by the timing of the Easter holiday, which fell in late March in 2018 but in mid-April this year.
When the effects of price changes are included, the seasonally adjusted value of total retail sales rose 0.2 percent, or $43 million, in the March quarter after a strong 1.8 percent rise in the December quarter.
Hardware and building supplies had the largest increase, up 2.8 percent, or $59 million, after a 1.4 percent, or $30 million, fall in the December quarter.
“More monthly building consents issued for new homes may have contributed to the rise in sales from the hardware and building supply stores,” Chapman said. New homes consented in January and February were up about 30 percent each from the same months last year, according to Stats NZ.
In actual terms, the value of total retail sales was $24 billion in the March quarter, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier.