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Groceries boost card spending in February – Media release

11 March 2020

Retail card sales bounced back in February 2020 with more spent-on groceries and long-lasting goods like furniture, hardware and appliances, Stats NZ said today.

Total retail card spending was up 0.6 percent in February 2020, when adjusted for seasonal effects, after a 0.2 percent fall in January 2020 month.

The data for electronic card transactions is supplied monthly, so weekly or daily spending patterns cannot be provided in any month.

“Although we have seen a lift in sales in February, we can’t identify at what point during the month this occurred. It’s possible that increases in supermarket sales resulted from concerns around COVID-19,” retail statistics manger Sue Chapman said.

The largest increase in sales was for grocery food and drink (consumables), up $51 million (2.4 percent), followed by an increase in sales of long-lasting products like furniture, hardware, and appliances (durables), up $12 million (0.8 percent).

“This is the largest dollar value increase in grocery sales since March 2018, when Good Friday fell at the end of the month,” Ms Chapman said.

Vehicles, fuel, and apparel were all relatively unchanged compared with the January 2020 month.

Eating and drinking at places like restaurants, cafes, and bars (hospitality), fell $8.5 million (0.8 percent).

This is the second month in a row where spending in hospitality has dipped.

“There has been a drop in weekly visitor arrivals from China as a result of the travel ban being implemented at the start of February,” Ms Chapman said.

See Provisional International Travel Statistics for more information.

Core retail spending (which excludes vehicle-related industries) increased 0.8 percent in February 2020, after a 0.3 percent fall in January.

The total value of electronic card spending, including the two non-retail categories (services and non-retail), was flat in February 2020. This follows a 0.2 percent increase in January 2020.

The largest decrease across all categories was non-retail (excluding services), which includes travel, health, and wholesale. This industry fell 0.8 percent ($15 million) from January 2020.

In actual terms, retail spending using electronic cards was $5.7 billion, up 8.6 percent ($452 million) from February 2019.

“This actual increase is higher than a normal February month, as 2020 is a leap year, which added an extra day’s trading in the month,” Ms Chapman said.