Tasman tops in retail sales growth

MOVING UP: Nick Tuffley says the main driver for Tasman's impressive climb up the rankings to third place was its retail sales growth.
MOVING UP: Nick Tuffley says the main driver for Tasman's impressive climb up the rankings to third place was its retail sales growth.

Tasman has topped the country in retail sales growth, the ASB Main Report shows.

Its regional economic scoreboard now rates Tasman third behind Canterbury and Auckland.

This is the same economic barometer that sent Nelson central city businesses into a spin when its previous report showed that for the first three months of the year retail trade was down 5 per cent in Nelson but up 14 per cent in Tasman.

That then prompted an urgent meeting between Nelson city councillors, CBD retailers and property owners that resulted in the introduction of free winter parking to encourage shoppers to the central city.

Now the June quarter report shows Tasman's retail trade annual growth has soared 26 per cent and Nelson's 7 per cent, against national growth of 3 per cent.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley said the main driver for Tasman's impressive climb up the rankings to third place was the retail sales growth that outstripped every other part of the country.

Tasman gained four stars, described as "be there or be square" on the scoreboard.

The report on Tasman also said: "Further improvement may be a big ask, as construction activity in the region was weak over the June quarter and employment growth has been modest compared to the national average."

Nelson received a three-star rating, described as "fair to middling".

"Nelson has seen an increase across retail spending and positive employment growth while high house prices could be what's hindering the low construction levels and housing market growth," said Tuffley.

The report on Nelson noted tourist numbers remained robust and employment in the region was growing but at a slower rate than nationwide.

However, while Tasman had the highest increase in retail trade, more was spent in Nelson. Tasman's 26 per cent rise took its retail trade to $133 million, and Nelson's 7 per cent rise brought it to $176m.

Uniquely Nelson manager Cathy Madigan said Nelson and Tasman had the same 12 per cent gain in retail trade in the last quarter, with Nelson increasing from minus 5 per cent to 7 per cent and Tasman from 14 per cent to 26 per cent.

"However, Nelson is still the powerhouse of the region, that is where the bulk of money is spent," she said.

She believed Tasman's growth was driven by population growth while Nelson was a more mature market.

The report was for the June quarter so did not yet reflect any impact from Nelson city's free parking trial, which started on July 1, she said.

She hoped that the next figures would reflect a boost in July from the free parking, the local government conference and Light Nelson.

Tasman has seen a retail boost with the addition of KMart in Richmond, and the Warehouse will open there next week but there have also been shop closures, including Cheapskates and Baku in Queen St.

Tuffley said there was some volatility in the regional figures, especially in retail trade. "People should not get too set in stone over what these figures mean because there's a bit of noise from one quarter to the next."

Overall, Nelson and Tasman were doing reasonably well. While there had been some lift in 2012-13 from people shifting after the Christchurch earthquakes, that had now returned to a more normal pace.

Canterbury again held on to the top spot in the scoreboard.

Narrowly holding onto the top ranking from Auckland, both regions were similarly buoyed by strong employment and population growth, with a healthy outlook for construction, the report said.

Activity was not as robust in the regions outside the main centres, with the decline in dairy prices and more recently forestry weighing on the outlook for parts of rural New Zealand, the report noted.

The Nelson Mail