BUSINESSDESK: New Zealand retail sales rose more than expected in the June quarter as people spent the most on cars and vehicle parts since the series began in 1995.
The total volume of spending rose a seasonally adjusted 1.3% to $17.25 billion in the three months ended June 30, Statistics New Zealand says, led by a 7.3% boost in expenditure on motor vehicles and parts.
That outpaced the 0.7% growth forecast in a Reuters survey of economists. The volume of spending on fuel fell 2.6% to $1.57 billion in the period, its second quarterly decline.
Stripping out motor vehicle related spending, core retail sales climbed 0.9% to $13.4 billion.
In value terms, which accounts for both volume and price movements, spending rose 1.1% to $17.62 billion, with core retailing up 0.7% to $13.41 billion.
The kiwi dollar rose to 81.06 US cents after the report was released, from 80.92 cents immediately before.
The figures come after an ANZ Roy Morgan survey showed consumers grew more optimistic this month, with the number of people willing to buy big-ticket items outnumbering those who aren't.
Retailers have had to contend with tepid consumer demand over the past couple of years as households put more of their discretionary spending into repaying debt rather than hitting the stores.
That has seen an increase in discounting as stores compete for market share.
The value of actual sales rose 4.8% to $17.01 billion in the June quarter from the same period a year earlier, with a 13% lift in spending on motor vehicles and parts, and a 12% rise in non-store and commission-based retailing.
Unadjusted retail sale volumes were also up 4.8% to $16.67 billion from the June quarter last year.
The seasonally adjusted volume of spending at supermarkets and grocery stores, which accounts for 23% of retail sales, rose 0.3%to $4.06 billion in the June quarter, with values up 0.7% to $4.21 billion.
Retailers built up their stocks 7.4% to $6.33 billion from a year earlier, with a 65% jump in non-store and commission-based retailing, an 18% lift in specialty food and a 14% boost in cars and parts.
Consumer electronic goods retailers wound down their inventories by 3.3% to $505 million from June 2011.
The volume of annual sales of electronic and electrical goods climbed 13% to $784 million, though the value fell 0.5% to $642 million in the same period.
Falling prices for telecommunication equipment and audio-visual and computing gear have helped keep a lid on inflation over the past year, which eased to its slowest pace of 1% in 13 years during the June quarter.