Retailers have started the year on a strong note, according to the latest electronic transaction figures from Paymark.
In January, spending in the Wellington region on cards Paymark processed totalled $360 million, up 3.3 per cent from a year ago. Around New Zealand, healthcare and homewares businesses saw some of the biggest increases.
Spending at dentists was up 17 per cent, medical centres had 10 per cent more money come in while pharmacy spending rose 6.3 per cent and optometrist income was up 9 per cent.
Jim Blakely, a dispensing optician at central Wellington's Woodward Optical, had more people coming in for eye tests but suspected the increase in business was a return to normal after a quiet period.
"People have been holding off spending on their health the last couple of years as a result of government cutbacks affecting a large number of households in Wellington but you can only put these things off for so long. We have been busier, and that's what I'm putting it down to."
Home renovations and redecorating appeared to be keeping plenty of consumers busy nationwide, with 18 per cent more spent on plumbing, an 8 per cent rise at gardening stores and a rise of 12 per cent at hardware and home decorating stores.
Vanessa Cohen, owner of Magnolia Trading Company home- decorating and gift store, sold "a lot" of cushions in January at the Tory St store she has had for nine years.
"But, the thing is, how do you know if that's a general trend or if you just had great cushions that month?"
It was usually a busy time of year because people who were visiting Wellington during their holidays shopped at her store for items such as designer candlesticks, vases and fragrance diffusers they couldn't get in smaller towns.
"It's wedding season so we tend to sell beautiful homeware gifts this time of year, but in terms of being more than a normal January, I haven't noticed that.
"It has been good and healthy like it normally is."
Accommodation providers and consumer electronics stores did not fare so well, recording below average annual spending growth for the month.
Nationwide, the 5.1 per cent rise in January spending to $3.95 billion meant $191 million more was injected in to the economy from Paymark-processed transactions than a year ago.
Paymark chief executive Simon Tong said January's lift in spending was an encouraging start to the year after spending rose only modestly in December with a 2.3 per cent rise.
"We're pleased the spending momentum that was evident in the last quarter has extended beyond the busy shopping season."
Regionally, Canterbury had the biggest spending increase, up 8 per cent year on year.
Waikato and Wairarapa followed on 7.6 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.
Spending in Auckland/Northland rose 5.1 per cent year on year.
The West Coast saw spending shrink year-on-year - by 3.1 per cent - while in Southland it was up a relatively subdued 2 per cent.
- The Dominion Post
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