14 Jun 2020

Retail spending up in Hastings but uncertainty lingers after Covid-19 lockdown

4:06 pm on 14 June 2020

Retail spending in the Hastings district halved during the Covid-19 lockdown but although spending's up now, there's still uncertainty about what's next.

Hastings,  Hawkes Bay aerial view, New Zealand

An aerial view of Hastings. Photo: 123RF

Spending data shows there was a big spike in the week before lockdown, more than last year's spend, but then a huge drop as alert level 4 hit.

Statistics from late May show spending levels again rising above last year's spend.

A weekly report measuring the numbers for the quarter between 9 March and the week of 31 May reflected the impact of Covid-19, compared to the same time last year.

Hastings District Council economic development manager Lee Neville said from March-May 2019 the weekly spend remained consistent - about $14 million.

But this year, the number of transactions spiked in the week of 22 March just before the alert level 4 lockdown.

Neville said this could be because people were stocking up on supplies before going into lockdown.

But Neville said there was a "sharp slump" in the following weeks until 12 April, when spending fell to just over $7m.

In May this year spending rose to just over $14m, about $1m higher than the same time last year.

Neville said it was possibly due to pent-up demand.

"This may be a bubble as people return to their usual activity and may reduce - the value of spending seems to reflect the activity on the streets in the Hastings and Havelock North CBDs, and across the district."

What council is doing to support business

District councillor Wendy Schollum said the results were expected and there would be volatility in the months ahead.

"As a council we are actively working to help support retailers, most recently through the establishment of an urban centres recovery fund of $150,000 to enable the business and retailers associations in the Hastings, Havelock North and Flaxmere urban centres to attract shoppers via marketing and promotional activities.

"The move to Level 1 has increased anxiety for many retailers, with concern that consumers will focus less on shopping locally, as life returns to 'normal'."

Alert level 1 'up and down'

That's partly the fear of Annabelle Plowman, who runs lifestyle store Annabelles in Havelock North.

She told RNZ although online sales boomed during alert level four, bringing her the most online sales ever, foot traffic at alert level 1 had not reached pre Covid-19 levels.

She said although it was busy until Queen's Birthday, it wasn't the same in alert level 1.

"I would say it's a lot more up and down," Plowman said after the first week of alert level 1.

"I'm having some really really good days and some really really quiet days and it's not as consistent as it used to be. Obviously, like, people are being a little bit more cautious."

What were people spending money on in the Hastings district this year?

  • Food, pharmacy supplies and liquor up 14 percent on the same time last year
  • Clothing and footwear was up 18 percent
  • Home and recreational spending up 62 percent
  • Fuel and accommodation spending was down 15 percent
  • Hospitality and accommodation decreased by 8 percent

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