Lockdown causes sharp drop in August electronic card spending

Retail card spending in New Zealand fell 19.8 percent in August as the country went into lockdown in the second half of the month, according to Stats NZ.

A statement says this latest drop in monthly seasonally adjusted card spending was less than half the drop seen in April 2020 (down 47.3 percent) when the country was in lockdown for almost the entire month.

Business performance manager Ricky Ho says the card spending habits of New Zealanders were broadly similar during both lockdowns, “but this time around we actually saw an increase for one spending category”.

Consumables (includes groceries, liquor, and specialised food) was the only spending category that saw an increase in card spending over the month; $216 million or 9.3 percent.

Supermarkets and grocery stores remained open as an essential service during lockdown, but many businesses that sold durables or apparel were not considered essential.

The durables spending category, which includes many non-essential items such as furniture, hardware, and appliances, dropped $605 million or 35.5 percent in August.

In actual terms, cardholders made 28 million fewer transactions compared with August 2020 (down 19.4 percent). However, the average value per transaction increased by 9.4 percent over the year to reach $55.

Auckland was at alert level 3 for much of August 2020, while the rest of New Zealand was at level 2.

“As expected, the total number of transactions fell sharply since this time last year. We have not seen this level of card activity since May 2020, when the whole country was last under level 3 lockdown,” Ho said.

Stats NZ says values are only available at the national level and are not adjusted for price changes.

Electronic card transaction data covers the use of credit or debit cards in shops or online, and includes both the retail and services industries.

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