Retails spending in the Bay of Plenty is up almost 5 per cent on last year but the flow of business is not hitting the accommodation sector - with some moteliers saying business is tough.
The latest Paymark figures released yesterday show $277.7 million was spent in the Bay of Plenty in January - up $10 million or 4.1 per cent on last year.
The number of transactions (5.57 million) increased by 4.6 per cent.
Paymark chief executive Simon Tong said it was an encouraging start to the year after modest spending in December.
"We're pleased that spending momentum that was evident in the last quarter has extended beyond the busy shopping season," he said.
Stores linked to the building industry had shown the largest levels of growth, with spending in hardware stores up 11.6 per cent.
Retailers in Tauranga central had noticed the increase in trade.
Molloy Menswear owner Jason Dovey said consumers appeared to be more positive.
"People aren't gloomy like they were. If people want something they will buy it," he said.
Mr Dovey said the increase in spending was probably a result of a healthy housing market.
Cabbages and Kings manager Val Auld said business had been better than she expected this month and was busier than at the same time last year.
"We've had a really busy January and February so far. Especially since it's been sunny. People are enjoying the beach and then having enough of the beach and coming to shop."
In contrast, the accommodation sector has seen a drop in trade over the same period.
Tauranga Motel Association treasurer Kris Stamatakos, who has owned the Colonial Court Motor Inn for almost nine years, said he had never before seen motels with vacancies on New Year's Eve and Auckland Anniversary weekend.
There was one room still on offer in Tauranga on New Year's Eve, he said.
Roselands Motel owner Tony Burrell said he had rooms available on the Saturday before Anniversary Day - this was the first time he had vacancies during a long weekend in 14 years.
"This summer has definitely been a bit softer than other summers. I don't Shop tills ring but
still room at the inn
HOLIDAY HOTSPOT: Tauranga CBD looking to Mauao.
think it's ever a disaster in Tauranga.
"We always just keep ticking along but it's the time of year we need to make our money and I don't think a lot of people have," he said.
"I think people just haven't got any money to spend."
Mr Burrell said the transfer of an Anniversary Weekend surf carnival to Whangamata as well as the airshow and Laneway festival in Auckland meant fewer visitors came to the Western Bay this year.
The Rena disaster made life harder for many tourism operators last year but it made for a busy year in the motel industry because of the accommodation needed by Maritime New Zealand staff and clean-up crews.
"We did really well late winter and early summer but the rest of summer was tough."
Harbourview Motel owner Athol Potterill and Mr Stamatakos agreed business this year was a far cry from the "exceptional" summer last year.
"If you compare it to that it's bad. If you go back to two years ago, me personally, I'm a little down," Mr Stamatakos said.
Mount Maunganui should be running at full occupancy all the way through to Anniversary Weekend but that was far from the reality, he said.
"From January 7 there were vacancies every single day when that should not happen at the Mount ever, ever, ever," he said. "This was one of my worst Januaries ever, occupancy wise."
Occupancy had been way down but the profit was not too bad as he had put prices up.
Of the 40 motels in the association the feedback overall seemed to be it had been an average year so far, he said.