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NZ quarterly retail sales rise 1.7% in 4th-qtr, adding to upbeat electronic cards data

Friday 23rd February 2018

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New Zealand retail sales rose in the fourth quarter, as Kiwis spent more on dining and drinking out, cars and parts, and on groceries.

Retail sales volumes rose 1.7 percent in the final three months of 2017, on an adjusted basis for seasonal and price effects, from a revised 0.3 percent gain in the third quarter, Statistics New Zealand said. In actual terms, the value of total retail sales rose 6.3 percent to $25.2 billion in the December 2017 quarter, from the same period in 2016.

The data tracks spending over a period already covered in the monthly electronic cards series. Retail spending on that measure rose for a fifth straight month in January, with the latest month also capturing a pickup in Kiwis dining out, which economists say corresponds with a hot summer.

"Households ended 2017 with a bang," said Westpac Banking Corp senior economist Satish Ranchhod. The 1.7 percent gain "was a bit above our own forecast and market expectations. This followed a very muted gain in the preceding quarter."

"Underpinning the rise in overall spending was a solid 1.8 percent lift in core categories," he said in a note. "That included gains in food and grocery sales, as well as increased spending on items like clothing and electronics. Some of this strength may have been related to the increased prevalence of ‘Black Friday’ sales in New Zealand."

Core industries sales rose 1.8 percent in the latest quarter. Of the two excluded industries, fuel sales fell 0.7 percent, its second quarterly decline, while motor vehicles and parts rose 2.1 percent.

Sales of food and beverage services climbed 3.7 percent, the biggest quarterly gain for an industry. Liquor sales climbed 3.6 percent. Sales at supermarket and grocery stores, the biggest industry at $4.6 billion sales in the quarter, a gain of 1.4 percent.

Accommodation had the largest decrease, falling 2.3 percent, while hardware, building and garden supply store sales fell 1.8 percent.


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