Food and fuel cap off spending frenzy

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 07:33 09/01/2014
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Manawatu cars are guzzling more fuel than ever, Manawatu residents are guzzling more food than ever, and the region's economy is loving it.

Paymark spending statistics for December, released yesterday, capped off a "superb" year of spending growth in Palmerston North and the wider Manawatu.

Spending through the Paymark network hit $159.2 million last month - up 9 per cent from a year ago - and the third-highest spending growth in the country, and well above the national average growth of 7.5 per cent.

Palmerston North City Council economic policy adviser Peter Crawford said the region had spent $21.6m more on the electronic transactions network in 2013 than it had in 2012.

That increase in the year's spending - up 5.3 per cent on 2012 - had easily outstripped the national average increase of 3.3 per cent. This was impressive given the effects of the drought in Manawatu and the lack of inclusion of Kelvin Grove supermarket in the statistics in the first six months of the year, Mr Crawford said.

"It's the food and fuel sector that has almost entirely driven the growth - those two account for $16.5m of the increase."

Increased eating out at cafes, restaurants and takeaway stores were a part of that growth but Palmerston North's growing love affair with vehicles could also not be underestimated, Mr Crawford said.

The Palmerston North area had the country's strongest growth in sales of used cars in the 12 months from November 2012 to November 2013, up from 1330 new registrations the year before, to 2023.

The 50 per cent rise was double the 25 per cent national average.

Mr Crawford said the numbers had yet to be collated for December but new and used car sales had both been strong in recent times.

"That leads to the increased fuel consumption and therefore more spending."

While the growth in cars might not please everyone, it was great for Manawatu's economy in the short term, Mr Crawford said.

December spending figures were poised to be the strongest in the country until a slowdown on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day in the city, which could be attributed to the fact that the city was not a renowned summer holiday destination, he said.

"Hopefully there's shop owners out there in the city taking notice and feeling quite good about themselves."

Paymark head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston said that some of the biggest growth nationally was seen at furniture stores and duty free shops, with spending increasing by 11.5 per cent and 17.3 per cent respectively.

"For the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis we're seeing a significant increase in spending which should bring optimism for most Kiwi retailers, and hopefully we see this momentum continue into 2014."

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A look at the national spending situation page 8.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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