Paymark figures show spike in spending at chemists and supermarkets after coronavirus confirmed in NZ

Shopping trolley filled with medicine.
February Paymark figures show spike in spending at chemists and supermarkets. Photo credit: Getty.

Supermarkets and chemists enjoyed record-spending last month, following confirmation of New Zealand's first coronavirus case.

The country's first case of Covid-19 was confirmed by Prime Minister Jacinda Arden on February 28, prompting a wave of panic buying across Auckland.  

According to Paymark electronic card data for February, on Saturday 29 February, supermarket spending across Auckland and Northland soared, increasing by over 40.2 percent compared with Saturday, 2 March 2019. 

But the last day of February saw chemists take the brunt of panic-buying, where Kiwis living in Auckland and Northland spent 75.5 percent more year-on-year.

February spending across debit and credit cards issued locally and overseas, amounted to $5,194,300 ($5.2 million) nationwide, up by 6.7 percent compared to February 2019.  

Areas which showed the biggest jumps in the amount spent year-on-year were Palmerston North, up 14.4 percent to $185,600, Hawkes Bay, up 11.9 percent to $155,100, Wairarapa, up 11.6 percent to $49,800, Gisborne, up 11 percent to $45,000, Marlborough, up 10.4 percent to $70,900 and Wellington, up 10.3 percent to $495,700.

People in Auckland and Northland spent $2,037,800 ($2.03m) on 42.1 million transactions, up 4.1 percent on February 2019. 

February spending on credit cards issued overseas tallied at $348 million, up 12.7 percent year-on-year. 

For credit cards issued in China, spending at chemists in January 2020 was almost double that of January 2019, jumping by 94.1 percent year-on-year. In February, spending at chemists was lighter, although still up by 4.4 percent year-on-year.

Overall, spending on China-issued credit cards in January had spiked by 19.8 percent year-on-year, but in February, spending took a big hit, dropping by 39.3 percent compared to February 2019. 

The data reflects a recent buying frenzy following confirmation of New Zealand's first case of coronavirus on 28 February, resulting in queues outside Auckland supermarkets as people stocked up on toilet rolls, bottled water, hand sanitiser and other grocery items.