An extra $3.8 million was spent through Paymark's eftpos network in the Nelson region last month compared with the same time last year.
The latest Paymark figures show the region had a 4.7 per cent spending increase to $84.2 million. That was less than the national average of 6.8 per cent and Nelson's increase was seventh out of the 17 regions. However, the rise has nearly doubled from a year ago when Nelson's growth rate was 2.6 per cent and nationally it was 3.1 per cent.
"It's good growth," said Uniquely Nelson manager Cathy Madigan.
The increase has dropped off a little from 6.8 per cent in January and 6.4 per cent in February to the 4.7 per cent last month. However, the timing of Easter is a factor in the figures, with Easter falling in March last year but April this year.
Madigan said the hospitality sector was still strong, while accommodation and petrol were down. Now people were starting to spend more on fashion and footwear as new season goods came in.
"I will be interested to see how it goes with Easter and Anzac Day in the same week. Nelson being a tourism centre, hopefully all those Cantabrians will come up for a break and we'll see some good figures. We also hope the retail figures will reflect that as well."
The long trend was showing upward growth, and the doubling from 2012-13 was positive. "It's a slow steady climb," she said.
Richmond Mall manager Belinda de Clerq said foot traffic last month was up 12 per cent on last year and total retail sales for the mall were up 6.5 per cent.
Categories that performed well were the supermarkets, food court retailers and cafes, electronics, jewellery and in its fashion category some stores had double digit growth.
Marlborough had 11 per cent growth in January and 12 per cent in February but experienced a dramatic drop to 3.9 per cent last month.
Canterbury had the strongest growth with a 8.2 per cent rise, and Auckland/Northland and Palmerston North both had a 6.8 per cent rise, while the West Coast was up just 0.9 per cent and South Canterbury up 1.7 per cent.
Nationally, Mark Spicer, head of customer relations at Paymark, called it a solid start to the year.
"The growth rate we have experienced this quarter is similar to that of the previous five quarters and the underlying spending pattern is consistent with continued New Zealand economic growth into 2014.
"Looking more closely at the figures for March, there is a hint of deceleration across some sectors and centres but it is difficult to get a clear guide with Easter having shifted from March in 2013 to April this year.
"During March, spending via credit cards was up 10.4 per cent year on year and we believe that this can be explained, in a large part, by the surge in the volume of contactless cards being used, especially at petrol stations and supermarkets. Spending using debit cards remained lower at 3.9 per cent during the month, also affected by the switch in card use.
"Strip out the supermarkets and petrol stations, and the annual growth rate for spending through the rest of the economy through Paymark was 5.9 per cent, still a good growth rate but below the 6.5 per cent annual average growth for these sectors over the previous six months."
HOW MUCH? Nelson region Paymark spending on same time previous year January this year: up 6.8% February this year: up 6.4% March this year: up 4.7% March last year: up 2.6%
Does Nelson deserve to be classed as a city?Related story: (See story)