Kiwi card spending keeps on rising

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Valentine's Day saw a slight lift in spending on flowers and gifts, but that was countered by the shorter 28-day month. Photo / Greg Bowker
Valentine's Day saw a slight lift in spending on flowers and gifts, but that was countered by the shorter 28-day month. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealanders spent more on their debit and credit cards last month for the fifth month straight, with the highest growth coming from three South Island regions.

Paymark, which processes about three quarters of the country's electronic transactions, released figures today showing kiwis were continuing to open their wallets.

Spending through the Paymark network rose by 0.9 per cent from January to February, after seasonal fluctuations such as the shorter month were taken into account.

The total value of electronic transactions in the month was $3.79 billion.

All regions saw some growth during February, apart from Gisborne which remained static, said Paul Whiston, Paymark's head of sales and marketing.

Spending growth was the highest in Canterbury (+4.6 per cent), ahead of Otago (+4 per cent) and South Canterbury (+3.4 per cent).

"Canterbury continues its run at the top end of the growth board, and coupled with the ongoing increases in spending on hardware and home decorating it looks to be a sure sign that the rebuild is in full swing," Whiston said.

The momentum in spending was very encouraging, he said.

"We're pleasantly surprised to see spending maintain its upward impetus this month, great news for a number of retailers across the country."

The total number of card transactions (74.19 million) was 1.8 per cent higher than a year ago.

"This is slightly lower than the annual growth rates we've been seeing in recent months, however it was to be expected with the extra 29th day in 2012 making quite a difference to spending totals," Whiston said.

While some sectors and regions were definitely still finding things tough, others were enjoying strong growth, he said.

New and used car retailers saw sales surge 15.4 per cent.

This was backed up by Motor Industry Association figures out on Tuesday which showed sales of commercial vehicles such as trucks, utes, vans and buses hit a 30-year high last month.

Commercial vehicle sales of 2,148 were 38.4 per cent higher than last year and were the highest monthly February sales since 1982.

Paymark said specialist food retailing and taxi services were also doing well, seeing 15.3 per cent and 13.6 per cent growth respectively.

Retailers selling flowers and gifts saw a slight annual decline, down 1.1 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

"Valentine's Day saw a slight lift in spending on flowers and gifts, however the overall effect was not enough to off-set the shorter 28-day month," Whiston said.

Hardware and home decorating stores had another good month, with sales up 10.9 per cent.

The number of credit card transactions last month was up 3 per cent and debit cards up 1.5 per cent.

More than 74,000 merchants and 116,000 terminals are connected to the Paymark network.

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