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Record fall in New Zealand's retail sales 'not unexpected'

Unsurprisingly due to New Zealand's Covid-19 lockdown, retail sales in the June quarter plummeted to the lowest on record.

Source: Seven Sharp

Spending on things like eating out, accommodation away from home, vehicles, and fuel all fell by 15 per cent, according to Stats NZ.

It is the biggest drop on record going back 25 years.

The drop was only partly offset by strong supermarket and grocery sales which were up 12 per cent - or $615 million - from the same period last year.

“This unprecedented fall in the June quarter was not unexpected, with Covid-19 restrictions significantly limiting retail activity,” retail statistics manager Kathy Hicks said.

“Non-essential businesses closed temporarily for about half of the quarter during Alert Levels 4 and 3.”

Most industries suffered during the period, however sales of food and beverage services took a 40 per cent hit - equating to about $1.2 billion in the quarter.

“For a team of 5 million, that is equal to each person spending about $18 a week less on eating out over the June quarter,” Ms Hicks said.

Fuel took the second biggest fall - down 35 per cent or $770 million.

Meanwhile, motor vehicles and parts retailing were down 22 per cent ($729 million), accommodation services fell by 44 per cent ($418 million) and hardware, building, and garden supplies dropped 16 per cent ($350 million).

While all 16 regions saw retail sales fall, Auckland had the largest dollar value fall this quarter, down 13 per cent ($1.2 billion). Canterbury had the next largest fall in dollar terms, down 17 per cent ($516 million).

However, Ms Hicks said online businesses were in demand during lockdown.

Sales values for the non-store and commission-based industry rose 20 per cent ($94 million) in the June 2020 quarter.

“These businesses were able to operate online under lockdown as an essential service.

“They provided food deliveries and electronic supplies, such as heaters or computer monitors for home office set-ups during lockdown.”