'New normal' keeps wallets closed

Christchurch shoppers are doing less wining and dining and are in no rush to ramp up discretionary spending, the latest data shows.

The earthquakes have changed lifestyles and this parsimony is the "new normal", analysts say.

It is reflected in the Christchurch retail trade indicator from Statistics New Zealand which showed sluggish retail spending growth in the city in the three months to March 31.

Spending in the quake-hit city's accommodation, bars and restaurants fell 2.8 per cent from the previous quarter. Other retail spending rose 0.7 per cent.

Total retail trade in the city increased just 0.3 per cent in the March quarter, less than the 0.8 per cent increase in the previous three months.

Since the June 2010 quarter, the last three-month period before the first earthquake hit the city, Christchurch's total retailing has risen just 1.3 per cent, well below the national average rise of 7.7 per cent growth.

But that was no surprise because of the earthquakes, analysts said.

The accommodation and food services sector in Christchurch were worst hit, falling 11.3 per cent since the earthquakes began, while other retail trade has risen 3.5 per cent. The accommodation and food services sector accounts for 13 per cent of retailing in the indicator.

But total retail trade activity has been climbing for the past five quarters, albeit slowly.

PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Nathan Wylie said lifestyles had definitely changed. "This is the new normal – these trends that we're getting at the moment are establishing what the baseline will be."

The Press