Student spending boosts retail sales

Southlanders are continuing to spend more money than last year, with Southern Institute of Technology students among those digging into their pockets, an Invercargill retail boss says.

Electronic transaction figures released yesterday by Paymark, which processes about 75 per cent of New Zealand's electronic transactions, shows tills in the region were still ringing for retailers.

Spending in the region in February was up 5.4 per cent on February 2013. Southlanders spent $100 million for the month compared with $94.9m in February 2013.

The upward trend follows increased spending in the south during the Christmas holiday period and in January.

H & J Smith chief executive John Green said the store had a positive start to 2014, with good January and February sales. March had also got off to a good start, with people spending money on winter clothing.

New Southern Institute of Technology students were more visible in the store than in past years and could be contributing to the increase in February spending figures.

The recent field days had been a good indicator that rural money was flowing, which was good for the economy, he said.

The extension of the New Zealand Aluminium Smelters contract at Tiwai Pt had also bolstered confidence in Invercargill city, Mr Green said.

Paymark's head of customer relations, Mark Spicer, believed the data showed the country was reaching a more mature stage of the business cycle.

Nationally, spending growth relating to the housing sector was now curbing, with growth at hardware and appliance stores dropping below recent averages.

But sectors closely linked to entertainment and hospitality continued to trade strongly.

"This is perhaps a nod to the higher than previous level of tourists travelling in the country at present," Mr Spicer said.

Accommodation providers throughout the country experienced year-on-year growth of 14 per cent during February, while cafes and restaurants were similarly buoyant, he said.

Spending had picked up slightly in clothing shops, but spending at chemists remained low.

The Southland Times