Seasonally adjusted total retail spending on credit and debit cards increased 1 per cent in March, Statistics New Zealand.
Economists had expected a lift of 0.5 per cent, according to a Bloomberg poll. Core retail spending, excluding fuel and vehicles, rose 1.6 per cent.
“Despite losing a trading day to Good Friday, retail card spending rose in March,” retail manager Sue Chapman said.
“The rise was driven by an increase in spending on grocery and liquor retailing, rebounding from a fall in the previous month.”
Ms Chapman said spending may have been lower in February due to two large storms that hit several parts of the country.
Consumables spending, which covers grocery and liquor retailing, rose 2.9 per cent in March.
Spending on durables – which includes hardware, furniture and appliances – lifted 1.2 per cent on the month while hospitality rose 1.4 per cent in March versus February.
Apparel spending, however, fell 1.1 per cent on the month. Spending on vehicles fell 1.8 per cent and spending on fuel fell 0.5 per cent.
Thursday’s figures show actual total retail spending climbed rose 6.0 per cent in March to $5.5 billion.
Card-holders across all industries made 151 million transactions in the month. The average value of $49 was unchanged on the year and down from $50 in February.
“Election-related uncertainty looks to be well behind us, with consumers voting with their wallets. We remain constructive on the outlook for consumer spending over 2018 and beyond,” said ASB senior economist Mark Smith.