Wallets open as rebuild kicks in
Do-it-yourself Cantabrians splashing out in preparation for the rebuild are fuelling a retail spurt in the quake-hit region.
Nationally, retail spending was down 0.8 per cent to $17.466 billion in the September quarter, according to the latest Statistic New Zealand figures.
But in Canterbury greater spending on hardware and building supplies boosted retail spending 3.4 per cent, the strongest increase in two years in the region.
The national slide was led by less cash passing over the counters of grocery, car and fuel retailers - three of the largest retail sectors, Statistics NZ spokesman Blair Cardno said.
More than half of all types of retail stores saw a drop in spending but it was a different story in hardware, building and garden supplies.
Overall the sector recorded a 3.6 per cent increase boosted by the unusually high rise in Canterbury, Cardno said.
David Fleming, owner of Hamptons ITM on Ferry Rd, said he had been selling more to trade customers.
Delays caused by insurance, geotechnical and other issues were coming to an end and work was getting under way, especially in the northern and northwestern fringes of the city, he said.
"I wouldn't be overconfident about it, but certainly the last two months indicate that things are starting to gear up and that will put people on people and resources."
A release in insurance money was starting to flow through to retail as well, he said.
"It's generated some confidence and people are keen to spend."
Also, a healthy amount of DIY customers were coming out of the woodwork, he said.
He believed they were more confident to get their wallets out because of the continuing low interest rates.
UBS senior economist Robin Clements had expected a moderate rise in spending.
Canterbury's 3.4 per cent increase on the previous quarter was the silver lining and a decent boost in the building materials sector because of the expected rebuild, he said.
The region posted its strongest single-quarter growth since June 2010, he said.
"And Canterbury has the strongest trend growth in the country by a long shot."
Smiths City managing director Rick Hellings said the boost in Canterbury spending was "no surprise" with the region's comeback plain to see.
Nationwide, the market was slightly more grim, he said.
"Overall, it is pretty soft out there.
"People are being very careful with their money and selective with their buying."
Prices were falling in the tough market, driven partly by a high dollar, with the average sale price for appliances about 20 per cent down on a year ago, he said.