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NZ 1Q retail sales fall 1.5% led by supermarkets, groceries

Monday 14th May 2012

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New Zealand retail sales fell in the first three months of the year as people reined in spending on supermarket and grocery items after a spend-up during the Rugby World Cup.

The total volume of spending fell a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent to $17.02 billion in the three months ended Mar. 31, according to Statistics New Zealand. That was broadly in line with a 1.4 percent contraction forecast in a Reuters survey of economists.

Stripping out motor vehicle-related spending, core retail sales volumes dropped 2.5 percent to $13.28 billion, the biggest decline since the series began in 1995.

The bulk of the loss came from a 7.4 percent decline in the volume of sales at supermarkets and grocery stores to a seasonally adjusted $4.04 billion, the smallest quarterly volume since September 2010. That was the sharpest fall for those stores since the series started, and snapped two quarterly gains.

In value terms, which accounts for both volume and price movements, spending at supermarkets and groceries dropped 6.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted $4.18 billion. Prices rose 1.6 percent in the quarter.

"The industries that led this drop are the same ones whose sales were boosted during the cup - supermarkets, accommodation and fuel," industry and labour statistics manager Blair Cardno said in a statement. "Although sales volumes have fallen, they are still above their pre-cup levels."

The quarterly volume of accommodation sales fell 5 percent to $624 million, while the value of spending declined 4.5 percent to $659 million. The volume of spending on fuel shrank 1.9 percent to $1.62 billion, while the value increased 0.7 percent to $1.93 billion.

The figures come after April credit and debit card spending data showed a monthly increase in spending, with gains across all core retail sectors except apparel. Last week, Warehouse Group said its clothing and footwear unit was the only division that didn't show a pick-up in demand at its Red Sheds in the three months ended April 29.

The value of total retail sales shrank 0.8 percent in the first three months of the year to a seasonally adjusted $17.43 billion. Unadjusted retail sales rose 4.4 percent to $17.22 billion from the same quarter a year earlier, while volumes rose 3.4 percent.

The value of actual retail stocks rose 2.7 percent to $6.2 billion from the same quarter a year earlier, led by a 29 percent increase in stocks held by non-store and commissioned based retailing, and a 12 percent rise in liquor stocks. Supermarket and grocery store stocks shrank 1.9 percent to $619 million.

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