Core retail spending, excluding cars and fuel, was up 0.5 per cent in July with a lift in sales of furniture, hardware and appliances.
But a drop in spending on fuel left overall spending flat in the month.
Statistics New Zealand said overall spending using electronic cards was flat in July, following a flat month in June, adjusting for seasonal effects.
The two weak months of spending followed a strong lift in retail sales in May.
Compared with a year ago, overall spending was up 4.3 per cent, which was the weakest annual growth rate since late 2012, and July's retail figures were weaker than market expectations.
But with an improving job market, and better wage rises expected, Deutsche Bank expected consumer spending should continue to grow "at a reasonable clip" in the coming year. But it may slow down next year as lower incomes in the dairy sector hit spending in the regions.
Westpac economist Felix Delbruck said the overall sales numbers were a "little softer" than expected, but spending remained on an uptrend, in line with recent signs of a revival in the housing market, though not at the pace seen late last year.
Spending on durable goods was up $9.8 million or 0.9 per cent in July. Durables include furniture, hardware, and appliance retailing as well as pharmacy sales, including cosmetic, and toiletry retailing.
Spending on consumables also rose, up $5.4m, a gain of 0.3 per cent, for food and liquor retailing.
Clothing sales were up a "whopping" 1.7 per cent in the month, Delbruck said, "perhaps a delayed lift as the winter chill set in".
But hospitality sector sales were down 0.6 per cent, after a 10-month run of increases.
Fuel spending was down $4.8m or 0.6 per cent.
Core retail spending, excluding vehicle-related industries, rose 0.5 per cent in July 2014.
The total value of electronic card spending, including the two non-retail industries of services and other non-retail, fell 0.1 per cent.
Trends for the total, retail, and core retail series have all generally been rising since these series began in October 2002.
In unadjusted terms, 118 million transactions were made across all industries in July, with an average value of $51. The total amount spent across all transactions was $6.0 billion.