COVID-19 measures knock retail spending

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Spending on eating out and accommodation plunged more than $300 million or almost one-third in March in the wake of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, Stats NZ says.

Groceries had record-high sales in March, but retail card spending fell across the board during the month from clothes to fuel.

Total retail sales fell $231 million in March 2020, after adjusting for seasonal effects, the biggest fall on record in both percentage and dollar terms.

“Efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the last couple of months led to the closure of all non-essential businesses and people were told to stay at home from midnight March 25,” retail statistics manager Sue Chapman says.

“This hit hospitality hard. Restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as hotels, motels, and other accommodation, saw sales drop sharply.”

Spending on hospitality fell the most of any retail industries in dollar terms, with $338 million less spent on eating out and staying in hotels and motels.

“Hospitality was also affected by fewer international visitors due to travel restrictions since February,” says Sue.

“The border restrictions came into effect from midnight 19 March to almost all travellers, except returning New Zealanders.”

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