RTTNews - Retail sales in New Zealand suffered their worst quarter on record for the first three months of 2009.

Statistics NZ reported Friday that when adjusted for inflation, retail sales volumes for the first quarter declined 2.9 percent from the preceding quarter. The drop was more than double the previous record decline of 1.4 percent registered in June 2008 and March 1997.

Statistics NZ said motor vehicle sales were the largest contributor to the volume decline for the sixth straight quarter, falling 11.4 percent or NZ$238 million.

Retail sales volume exclusive of auto-related sales were down a seasonally adjusted 1.2 percent compared to the preceding quarter, also double the previous records of 0.6 percent declines seen in June 2007 and June 2008. The so-called core retail sales increased 0.1 percent in the final three months of 2008.

The largest component of core sales, supermarket and grocery sales, increased 1.9 percent.

Statistics NZ said overall, sales declined in 18 of the 24 retail categories surveyed.

Statistics NZ said volumes declined in 14 of the 20 core industry sectors, with appliance retailing the worst performer with a 5.9 percent decline.

The agency said the long term trend in total retail sales volumes has been declining since June 2007, having fallen a cumulative 6.7 percent since then, marking the longest and fastest period of decline since record keeping began in September 1995.

In terms of value, total retail sales for the quarter were down a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent, the fourth straight quarterly fall and the largest in 12 years. The biggest declines were seen in motor vehicle sales, which were down 9.2 percent. Auto fuel retailing dropped 6.6 percent.

Retail sales values excluding auto transactions were up 0.3 percent on quarter.

For the stand-alone month of March, retail sales were down 0.4 percent compared to February. Core retailing was up 0.5 percent on month.

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