While it isn't overly surprising that retail data for the region shows a notable drop in spending during lockdown, the good news is that the drop is less than the national average.

Taranaki retail data for the week ending March 29 shows a significant decrease in spending as the region moved into Alert Level 4 of the Covid-19 response, with a 15.7 per cent drop in spending for the week in Taranaki, against a national average decrease of 22.7 per cent.

"This data doesn't come as a surprise," says Anne Probert, Venture Taranaki's general manager of regional strategy and sectors.

"The restrictions placed on retailers while New Zealand remains under alert level four mean many have halted trading entirely, with the likes of hospitality, accommodation, and discretionary retail being hit the hardest."

Advertisement

Transactions were also down 44.4 per cent on the same period a year ago, reflecting the majority of retailers closing for business on Wednesday , March 25 as the country went into lockdown.

The sharpest declines were seen across hospitality and accommodation - down 81.9 per cent - and clothing, footwear and department stores, down 84.8 per cent.

While some sectors have experienced a sharp decline, others have enjoyed an increase, says Anne.

"Essential services and goods, like supermarkets and pharmacies, remain open, with shoppers spending more than usual at these essential services as they plan ahead. Spending across food, liquor and pharmacies was up 38 per cent on the same period last year."

Even before the lockdown, a large number of businesses were already noticing the impact Covid-19 was having, she says.

"Many retail businesses had already started to feel the impact of Covid-19 prior to the move to Level 4, with varying impacts ranging from sudden intensity of demand of certain products or services, to people starting to stay away. The lockdown has now curtailed shopping across most retail sectors, and led to some heavy declines in spending as a consequence."

While some sectors are likely to experience a continued decline over the weeks to come, others will begin to see some small increase coming through, says Anne.

"Changes to the definition of essential services, which have allowed some retailers to reopen with an online or contactless presence offering a limited product range, will likely stimulate a small increase in retail, but the hit to overall spending will continue for weeks to come."

Advertisement

Lockdown won't be forever, and businesses need to be focused on trying to keep going and be ready to return to business when they can.

"The challenge for our retailers, hospitality and other consumer-facing businesses is to utilise the support mechanisms available to ensure they can keep the staff and premises to be able to hit the ground running when the current restrictions end, but doing this in a way that will work within whatever the future economic landscape will look like."

Whatever the future economic landscape looks like, it is likely to involve a loss of a fair amount of international spending, at least in the short term.

"One factor in considering that future economy is a potential loss of international spending. The region's international visitor spend was down 37.2 per cent compared to this time last year," says Anne.