23 Feb 2021

Retail sales dipped at end of 2020

2:40 pm on 23 February 2021

Retail sales took a step backwards over the final three months of last year.

Christmas shopping in Wellington.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Official numbers from Stats NZ show retail sales volumes, which exclude price moves, were down 2.7 percent in the three months ended December, following a 28 percent rise in the previous quarter.

However, volumes were up 4.8 percent on the same period a year ago.

ANZ senior economist Miles Workman said the fall was not as bad as it appeared.

"The Q3 rebound out of lockdown was so strong, it set the hurdle very high to achieve further expansion in Q4."

Workman said the level of spending was not out of line with what is normally expected in the December quarter and the annual growth figure gave cause for confidence.

"And these data suggest the economy is in a remarkably robust position given all that came to pass in 2020."

Most of the industries had sales growth on a year ago with the clear exception of sectors reliant on international tourists, such as accommodation and hospitality.

Workman said the figures were broadly in line with ANZ's prediction that the economy would shrink by about 0.5 percent over the December quarter.

"That said, another strong quarter alongside further recovery in other pockets could easily replace the negative sign with a positive one."

The total value of sales fell by 1.2 percent over the quarter to just under $26 billion but were still nearly 5 percent higher than a year earlier.

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