Heat leads shoppers to higher spending
Exceptionally warm weather sent shoppers on food and furniture sprees last month - pushing eftpos and credit card spending up 0.8 per cent on January to $5.4 billion.
Seasonally adjusted figures from Statistics New Zealand show card spending in core retail sectors rose 0.7 per cent, led by strong lifts in durables - including furniture, hardware and appliances - and food and liquor shopping. Durable spending rose 1.4 per cent or $15 million.
Les Lovell, owner of Auckland business The Furniture Store, said the weather had boosted sales.
"People have not been sleeping very well because of the hot weather, blaming their bed and coming out and buying a new one.
"Also the weather has been so fine that people aren't thinking about escaping in winter and going on a Fiji trip in June, so the money they'd have put aside for that, they're spending on stuff for their homes."
Auckland's strong housing market had also helped sales of furniture, he said.
Infometrics economist Benje Patterson said entertaining by households helped boost food and liquor spending last month, which rose 0.6 per cent or $9m.
Statistics NZ said the 0.8 per cent lift in spending across all retail sectors was the fifth consecutive monthly rise.
Fuel was the only category to record a notable spending fall, after a strong lift in January, down 1.5 per cent or $10m.
Patterson said consumers were still showing caution with credit cards, with 43.4 per cent of transactions financed on them last month. That was largely unchanged on January and well below the decade-long average of 45.2 per cent.
He predicted moderate growth in consumer spending for the year, with a weak labour market weighing against recovering terms of trade, the accelerating Canterbury rebuild and easier access to credit.