Coronavirus fears may have lifted card spending results

Retail card spending was up in February 2020 boosted by spending on groceries and long-lasting goods like furniture, hardware and appliances, according to Statistics NZ.

Total retail card spending bounced back in February, showing a 0.6 per cent increase when adjusted for seasonal effects after a 0.2 per cent fall in January 2020.

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

Sue Chapman, retail statistics manager, said that although they have seen a lift in sales in February, they 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,” Chapman said.

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

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

Core retail spending (which excludes vehicle-related industries) increased 0.8 per cent in February 2020, after a 0.3 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent ($15 million) from January 2020.

In actual terms, retail spending using electronic cards was $5.7 billion, up 8.6 per cent to $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,” Chapman said.

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