Diana Clement: Barometers of a pandemic – booze, betting, beauty and bars

OPINION:

Booze, betting, beauty and bars. The big four Bs are where major trends can be seen in our spending thanks to the Covid-19 Delta outbreak.

It’s booze and betting that are up in lockdown, and beauty and bars (cafes and restaurants) are down.

For the month from September 15 to October 15, the total New Zealand consumer spend was down by 27 per cent compared with the same period in 2020, largely driven by the Auckland lockdown and the corresponding impact it has on domestic tourism, says Justin Lester of Dot Loves Data, about the numbers sourced from Eftpos New Zealand.

That wasn’t the case for booze spending, which spiked on the Tuesday as we first headed into lockdown: 585 per cent in Auckland, 500 per cent in the capital and 413 per cent in Christchurch. Fortunately for our nation’s health and wealth, the booze spending has receded since.

I like to point out that the demon drink, although enjoyable, is expensive and many households blow thousands of dollars a year on it. Three bottles of wine a week at $15 each adds up to $195 a month. Invested in a KiwiSaver growth fund returning 7 per cent per annum, and taxed at 28 per cent, it adds up to approximately $304,000 over 40 years of working. That’s approximate because the tax calculations are a bit more complex and growth fund returns do fluctuate.

For that month from September 15 to October 15, betting spend was up nationally by more than 100 per cent in the second half of October, largely driven by Lotto’s Powerball jackpots, says Lester. It’s fine to have a flutter occasionally. But I used the same Calculate.co.nz website and worked out that your Triple Dip ticket spending at $16 a week invested in KiwiSaver could grow to approximately $108,000 if invested over your working life as additional contribution.

Unsurprisingly, Lester says Auckland beauty treatment spending is down currently by 96 per cent from the same time last year. What I’d give for a haircut right now and I know I’m not alone. In the days leading into lockdown, it spiked hugely, up by more than 1000 per cent.

Bars (restaurants and cafes) are clearly hurting in Auckland due to lockdown restrictions. Bar spending is down 98 per cent, restaurants are down 50 per cent.

Sadly, for our local eating and drinking spots, our spending doesn’t climb back in level 2. Dot Loves Data for Wellington found that apart from takeaways – which were up 7-10 per cent over that same September-October period – restaurants, bars and cafes are still doing it tough compared to last year.

Spending in bars was down by 45 per cent. That’s because there are fewer workers in the CBD combined with the effects of social distancing and the inability of clubs to open their dancefloors, says Lester. Similarly, Wellington restaurants and cafes were down by 30 per cent.

In Christchurch, Garden City residents are living up to their city’s moniker, spending up large over the past month at DIY stores; up 22 per cent. Betting spend was up 48 per cent, while restaurants were down 18 per cent and bars down 8 per cent.

Every city and region has a different story to tell. Queenstown retailers are bearing the brunt of tourists being missing in action. Total consumer was spending down by 23 per cent over the past month. Hotel/motel spend was down 47 per cent. The restaurant spend was down by 33 per cent and bars down 8 per cent. Fast food sales performed better, up 5 per cent.

While not every household is the same, overall we’re spending less in total. Make hay with those savings. Pay down debt, save it, or find ways to share it with your favourite charity or business that you want to survive these trying times. I wrote an article two weeks ago about how to turn savings into feel-good money.

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