Luxury spending is back, with Nelsonians indulging in travel and driving off in new cars.
More people are also dining out here, but bar and cafe operators are waiting to see if this is due to more than the usual summer visitor influx.
Big-ticket and discretionary spending are seen as signs of consumer confidence, and it appears that Nelsonians have relaxed their belt-tightening of the past few years since the global credit crunch.
More new vehicles are on the road in Nelson. New car sales here during 2013 were up 11 per cent on the previous year, and this is ahead of the national increase of 7 per cent, Motor Trade Association data shows. That amounts to 1018 new cars in Nelson last year, an extra 101 sales on the year before.
The most popular buy was the Suzuki Swift, followed by the Toyota Corolla and Holden Commodore.
The Swift was being bought mostly by 45-plus buyers, often women, who wanted to treat themselves, said Nelson Bays Suzuki and Subaru dealer principal Mark Chapman. Generally, they were cash buyers.
"A lot of people are saying, ‘I'm getting nothing on my money in the bank, I'm getting to the point I have some disposable money, I can't take it with me, I may as well treat myself'."
He said his dealership had seen a rise in activity during the past year but trading was still not up to where it had been, and there was still a lot more potential in the market.
At a meeting with Nelson business people last week, everyone had been positive about the outlook for 2014, he said.
"We have had some difficult times with earthquakes and different things going on. It's probably a breath of fresh air - people are thinking we are over the worst of it. New Zealand is looking stronger than a lot of others."
Sales of imported used cars have also soared in Nelson - a 45 per cent increase, up by 450 cars to 1444, compared with 26 per cent nationally. The Suzuki Swift was again the most popular model, followed by the Nissan Tiida and Mazda Demio, according to the MTA.
Sales of new and used commercial vehicles were up by about 40 per cent, with the Toyota Hilux the most popular model, ahead of the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.
Nelsonians were also taking more trips, said House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas. "We are a big-ticket item, and it shows they are opening their wallets more."
The company had outlets in Nelson, Richmond and Motueka, and all were trading very well, he said. It was looking at growth of more than 10 per cent this year.
Nelsonians were taking a lot of short trips to Australia, Mr Thomas said, and he expected a 5 per cent increase in travel there this year. Holidays to Hawaii were also increasingly popular.
"US growth will go to high single figures, and the UK and Europe maybe 5, 6, 7 per cent as a whole market.
"People are feeling more confident. We are seeing that in retail spend and in travel."
Hospitality operators were enjoying fairly buoyant business, said Vic Brew Bar owner Ian Williams, who is on the executive of the Nelson Tasman Hospitality Association and chairs Uniquely Nelson.
"It's picked up this season, without doubt. It's down to the fact we seem to be getting a good number of tourists through, particularly Germans and Americans, and in the last couple of weeks from within New Zealand, particularly Christchurch.
"What is hard to tell is whether people locally are dining out and spending more. That's what we want to see in terms of good recovery, because that's what carries us through winter."
Nelson region vehicle sales New cars: up 11%
Imported used cars: up 45%
New commercial vehicles: up 43%
Used commercial vehicles: up 40%
Motorcycles: up 13%
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