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Long live spending ‘sugar rush’

Debbie Graham-Karaitiana and Sherryl Turley said June had been a good month for Milady in Masterton. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

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Wairarapa’s spending figures have been promising, and in many cases they’ve surpassed national averages, even surpassing monthly spending figures from years gone by.

Justin Lester, of the informatics company Dot Loves Data, said that consumer spending figures from July 4 to July 5 showed “a clear halo effect” surrounding New Zealand’s main cities, as families escaped to surrounding destinations, such as Wairarapa, leaving the centres with a trade vacuum.

Data from Paymark, New Zealand’s leading payments network, showed that, across the country, New Zealand retailers experienced a return to normal levels of spending for the month of June, even improving on June 2019.

However, spending rates for the entire June quarter [Q2 – April, May, June] unsurprisingly showed negative growth, dropping 15.5 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2019, where spending in New Zealand was shown to have grown 4.8 per cent.

The hospitality sector has been the worst hit, and recorded a spending decline of 6.1 per cent compared with June last year, with a quarterly decline of 47.9 per cent.

Greytown and Martinborough did very well this past weekend, though, and hospitality spending surged, with Lester’s data showing their spend was up 116.2 per cent on the same weekend last year. This placed them at number two on the list of the biggest hospitality booms in the country.

This was thought to show that things could be improving as people looked to winter breaks in their backyard under Alert Level 1, as international air travel remained all but impossible.

In Wairarapa, these national spending trends were also witnessed on a regional level, with several retail outlets reporting bumper spending through June.

Sherryl Turley, who works at Milady in Masterton, said June had been one of their best months of the year so far, with the free rail travel boosting sales through Lester’s “halo effect”.

“June has been really good,” Turley said. “We’ve even had a lot of people from Wellington come over, especially when the train was free.”

Kim Juno at Take Note Carterton also said that the past month had been “really good” for the business.

“June through to August is probably our quieter time, but even then it’s been great.

“Numbers and sales are both up, and we’ve had really good feedback from customers.”

Tracie Donald, owner of Saunders Shoes in Greytown, also reported a great month.

“It just shows how much [spending money] goes overseas,” Donald said, referencing those New Zealanders who would typically go abroad during the coldest winter months.

Popular winter destinations such as the Pacific Islands, Australia, and Indonesia are obviously off-limits, meaning those with spare cash have stayed local and taken advantage of Wairarapa’s wealth of shopping options.

This also meant that hospitality venues had an increase in Wellington people’s custom, whereas last year those same people may have headed for sunnier climes.

Donald said that the combination of good winter traffic and the Greytown Festival of Christmas had meant that this June had been “one of the best”.

At the moment, Wairarapa looks like it could be feeling its way out of the covid-19 sales slump, but as some commentators have suggested, this could be what’s called a “sugar rush”, a small, temporary boom as people finally get opportunities to spend their cash again, likely built up somewhat due to the lack of prior spending.

The test for Wairarapa will be whether this can continue through July and August, traditionally slower months in the retail calendar.

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