Summer lift for retail spending

Brilliant barbecue weather and higher fruit and vegetable prices may have put more bite in food bills last month, helping keep retail spending growth at a "respectable" simmer.

Statistics New Zealand said credit and debit card spending in core retail, excluding fuel and vehicle-related purchases, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.3 per cent last month on December.

That was due to a 0.8 per cent or $13 million jump in spending on consumables, which includes food and liquor retailing.

The three other core retail industries - durables, hospitality and apparel - all experienced a slight decrease in spending.

Clinton Beuvink, managing director of fresh and specialty food retailer Nosh, said that last month had been excellent for sales and weather.

"Every night you felt like staying outdoors and when the sun shines you tend to eat a bit more.

"Things that were aligned with the sunshine - so beer and wine and any beverage, and dessert and icecreams - were really popular. "We also had a great month with butchery-related products for the barbecue and also salad [ingredients]."

Foodstuffs spokeswoman Antoinette Shallue said the increased spending was probably due to a lift in consumer confidence.

"It seems that some consumers have recession fatigue and are looking to have a few affordable luxury items back in their lives."

ANZ senior economist Mark Smith said the increase in consumables spending was likely a reflection of higher food prices.

ANZ predicts the food price index for last month - to be published tomorrow - will show a 1 per cent lift in prices from seasonal increases in fruit and vegies.

Durables, hospitality and apparel had all shown strength in previous months, so the spending trend in those categories was still pretty good, he said.

Retail spending for the three months ending January was up about 1 per cent on the previous three months. Fairfax NZ

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