Festive treats raise spending stats

CLAIRE ROGERS
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2013

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Shoppers treated themselves to more Tip Top icecream, Heineken beer, Whittaker's chocolate and Schweppes soft drinks at Christmas, helping push retail card spending up for the third month in a row.

The increase in spending, although modest, adds to mounting evidence that the economy's mid-2012 slump was a blip rather than a wider trend.

Statistics New Zealand seasonally adjusted data shows shoppers spent $11 million, or 0.3 per cent, more on their cards across all retail sectors last month, compared with November.

In core retail, which excludes vehicle and fuel spending, spending rose 0.5 per cent.

Spending on food and liquor saw the biggest lift, up 0.8 per cent month-on-month even after the effect of the normal Christmas spending surge was factored out.

Antoinette Shallue, spokeswoman for New World and Pak 'n Save operator Foodstuffs, said data from research firm Nielsen showed spending at all supermarkets for the four weeks to December 30 shot up 14.1 per cent on the previous four weeks.

Spending from December 2 to December 30 was up 0.2 per cent year-on-year, with icecream brand Tip Top the biggest growth brand in terms of sales values, thanks to the warmer weather.

Sales at supermarkets for the eight weeks to December 30 were up 11.1 per cent on the previous eight weeks, but down 0.5 per cent year-on-year.

Brands to see the biggest growth in sales in the eight week period year-on-year were Heineken, sausage and deli meat brand Hellers, Whittaker's, Schweppes and Vogels.

Durables retailing, including furniture, appliance and hardware sales, saw the biggest increase after food and liquor sales, up 0.6 per cent last month on December.

Statistics said fuel was the only retail category to see card sales values fall, down 3.5 per cent or $24m.

Westpac senior economist Michael Gordon said card spending was showing signs of life again after flatlining in the three months to September 30.

"This adds to the list of indicators that the economy's mid-2012 slowdown will prove to be short-lived."

The card data follows reports of an improving housing market, credit growth and a stronger manufacturing and services activity towards year end, compared with the middle of the year.

Total card spending rose 0.4 per cent last month. In actual terms, shoppers charged 122 million transactions or $6.8 billion to their cards, equating to an average spend of $56.

ASB economist Daniel Smith said the decline in fuel spending, which followed a 1.1 per cent slip in November, could only partly be explained by slightly lower average petrol prices over the month. But fuel spending was probably still unwinding after a massive 12.3 per cent spurt in August.

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While the results suggested a healthier retail environment at the end of 2012, card data last year had pointed to stronger activity than was borne out in more comprehensive retail and consumption reports.

"So while we can assume that retail activity picked up over the final quarter of the year, the true extent of the improvement in household spending remains to be seen."

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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