New Zealanders spent less on their credit and debit cards last month, led by a decline in spending on accommodation, bars, restaurants and clothing.
The value of total transactions fell 0.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, to $5.43 billion in February, according to Statistics New Zealand. That follows gains across all eight industry groups in January.
Spending on core retail industries, which strips out motor-vehicle related expenditure, fell 0.5 percent to $3.35 billion.
The decline in spending in the latest month raises questions about the sustainability of sales growth among retailers this year. Warehouse Group, the biggest retailer on the NZX, today said trading conditions are expected "to remain uncertain" through its financial year. While it lifted sales, profit adjusted to exclude a one-time gain fell in the first half.
Spending on accommodation, bars, cafes and restaurants fell 2.5 percent to $591 million in February, seasonally adjusted, and spending on apparel fell 2 percent to $274 million. Warehouse's results showed clothing was the only product group where its sales declined in its first half.
Spending on durables, which includes furniture, hardware and appliances, fell 0.3 percent to $998 million. Consumables, which includes food and liquor, was the only core retail industry to show a gain, up 0.5 percent to $1.48 billion.
Total retail spending, including fuel and motor vehicles, fell 0.7 percent to $4.08 billion. Sales of fuel rose 0.1 percent to $634 million while spending on vehicles declined 1.2 percent to $107 million.
Unadjusted spending in core retailing rose 8 percent from February 2011, reflecting an extra day this year because of leap year.
The chart below shows annual changes: