• Patrick McBride

West Coast retailers bounce back

Recently released data shows retail spending on the West Coast is bouncing back at a higher rate than the New Zealand average.

Estimates from Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), based on electronic card spending data from Marketview/Paymark, show overall spending on the West Coast is currently 108% of last year’s levels. In comparison, national retail spending is at exactly the same level it was last year.

Development West Coast (DWC) chief executive Heath Milne says: “The COVID-19 crisis has been an incredibly challenging time for our business community, so it is great to see retail spending bouncing back.”

During the Alert Level 4 lockdown, electronic card spending on the Coast was down to around 50% of last year’s levels, rising to approximately 75% during Level 3.

Milne says industries on the Coast have experienced the impact of COVID-19 in vastly different ways.

Food & Liquor spending peaked at over 150% as people stockpiled goods prior to lockdown and since then has mostly remained above last year’s levels.

Since Level 2, there has been a spike in spending on Clothing, Footwear and Department Stores and Home & Recreational Retailing. These have all experienced spending rates around 200%.

The shift to Level 2 is also seeing a recovery, albeit slower, in spending on Food & Beverage services, which currently sits at 80% of last year’s rates.

West Coast industries mostly dependent on Tourism (Accommodation, Arts & Recreation services, and Transport & Travel agencies) have been struggling though, with spending less than 50% of last year’s levels. However, subsequent data shows a significant spike over Queen’s birthday weekend.

“The Tourism industry on the Coast has been highly reliant on international visitors, who inject around $271m into our economy each year. That is around 54% of our total tourism spend – the highest rate of all regions in NZ,” says Milne.

“The recovery in retail spending we’re currently experiencing is largely from domestic spending, such as Coasters catching up on shopping and Kiwis starting to travel domestically again after being cooped up under lockdown.”

The MBIE data shows domestic retail spending on the West Coast currently sits at 114% of last year’s levels, while international spending is only 31% of what it was this time last year.

“Given the uncertainty of when New Zealand’s borders will reopen, international spending is unlikely to recover any time soon.”