Shoppers are in top gear, revving up their spending on cars in the June quarter, helping to lift overall retail sales volumes by 1.2 per cent.
But it was not all one-way traffic, with sales down for clothing and footwear in the quarter, after a mild start to winter. Spending on petrol was down too.
Statistics New Zealand figures just out show the seasonally adjusted lift in total sales in the quarter followed a 0.8 per cent gain in the March quarter.
Core retail sales, excluding cars and fuels, were stronger than expected by economists, with a gain of 1.2 per cent.
That was in line with a view that the economy was gaining steam earlier in the year, though may have cooled more recently.
Westpac Bank economists said while the retail trade figures were better than expected, they would not stop the Reserve Bank from keeping official interest rates on hold, because of the big falls in dairy export prices in recent months.
The central bank was still expected to keep rates on hold till early next year.
By region, there were strong gains in retail spending in the June quarter for Waikato and Canterbury, both up almost 3 per cent. But Wellington was weak, down 0.6 per cent in the three months.
"The motor vehicle and parts retailing industry has driven this quarter's increase [nationally] in both sales volumes and values, recording their largest increases in two years," Statistics NZ business indicators manager Neil Kelly said.
Nationally, the gains in sector spending were almost across the board in 11 of 15 industries.
But the biggest move was in cars and parts, up 3.6 per cent in the June quarter by volume, the biggest increase for the industry in two years, Statistics NZ said.
Sales values were up $73 million in the quarter, while cars and parts prices actually fell slightly, down 0.7 per cent.
Spending on food and drinks services was also up a healthy 2.7 per cent, by volume. Trade has been improving for cafes, restaurants, takeaways, pubs and taverns for the past four years, gaining about 16 per cent since late 2010.
Spending on accommodation was up 6 per cent in the June quarter, while electrical and electronics goods retailing rose 2.9 per cent.
Spending on petrol was down 3.3 per cent in the three months, with only a slight fall in prices. However, fuel sales figures are not seasonally adjusted.
The other big loser was clothing, footwear and accessories, down 2.2 per cent in the June quarter.
The volumes of spending in core retail sectors, excluding cars and fuel, were up 1.2 per cent.
When the effect of price changes is included, the total value of retail sales rose 1.0 per cent ($180m), with sales rising in 10 of the 15 retail industries. For the core retail industries, sales rose 1.3 per cent ($180m).
Looking at the longer-term picture, the trends for both total retail sales volumes and values have generally been rising since mid-2009, Statistics NZ said.
In actual terms, the value of total retail sales was $18.2 billion in the June 2014 quarter, up 3.8 per cent compared with the June 2013 quarter.