New retail data shows the early impacts of COVID-19 on the regional economy.

As the region’s development agency, Venture Taranaki is actively supporting and assisting our region’s enterprises to manage the current restrictions imposed in our nation’s fight against COVID-19. 
 
While facilitating connections to the Government assistance package and delivering it’s own professional services support grant are high profile avenues of support for local business, VT’s 
support and leadership extends to monitoring, maintaining, and sharing regional insights and economic trends.
 
Venture Taranaki is working with a range of economists, stakeholders and industry sources to track the economic impacts of COVID-19, with data used to consider the potential regional impact across the short, medium and long terms.
 
Venture Taranaki receives weekly data which is already showing a sharp change in spending since the announcements of the four-stage alert system on 22 March. At that time the advice was issued for those over 70 or immune-compromised to stay at home and to stop any non-essential travel within New Zealand. Border restrictions were also in place in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.
 
The retail data for the week ending 22 March, showed a significant increase in spending ion the Taranaki region – up 14.5% and well above the national average increase of average of 10.1%. 
 
Key factors underpinning this were a sharp increase in food/liquor/pharmacy spend (up 53.4%) as well as home/recreational retailing (up 15%). Conversely many other retail categories reflected a sharp decline that week, including fuel (down 10.5%), hospitality (down 19.8%) and clothing/department store spend (down 25.2%).
 
“The sudden change in retail spend patterns in Taranaki on that first key week of COVID-19 announcements reflects what many people saw and experienced first-hand,” says Anne Probert, Venture Taranaki’s General Manager, Regional Strategy and Sectors.
 
“The initial rush to grocery outlets and pharmacies and medical outlets to stock up ahead of a potential lockdown reflects the concerns of local residents. The data demonstrates a reluctance to head out to restaurants, cafes and social gatherings, and there were changes to usual shopping patterns.”
“Those travelling started to reconsider their plans, looking to head home early, or stay home, with subsequent impacts on hotels/motel bookings as well as spend in areas such transportation and fuel,” Anne says.
 
“Looking ahead, Venture Taranaki will continue to track changes in retail statistics and we are also looking to introduce other measures to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on our broader economy, including surveying our local enterprises.”
 
“We are very conscious this has impacted businesses, livelihoods, jobs and the wellbeing of our communities, and encourage any enterprise or business who is needing support during this challenging time to reach out to us. A range of support and advisory packages are available from Venture Taranaki and the Government, and these can make a real difference.”
 
“Covid-19 is not a typical economic crisis. There are the jobs and people available and businesses want to operate, but they just can’t. While we grapple with this unknown economic climate, and the changes to the global economy, we are also considering the route ahead and measures to stimulate recovery and support our enterprises,” Anne says.
 
“It may be a case that the future is not ‘a return to normal’ for Taranaki but an adjusted world, and there is likely to be both opportunity and challenge in that.” 

“Last year, regional GDP was $8.9 billion, with Taranaki creating New Zealand’s second highest level of GDP per capita ($72,702, behind Wellington on $73,029). Regional GDP growth had slowed in 2019 however, to 1.7% against a national average of 5.0%.”
 
“2020 will be a different story for every region, and it will be interesting to see how the regional economy’s productivity tracks over the course of this year.”