Retail spending continues to rise with electronic card transaction sales up 5.6 per cent or $270 million on the same period last year.

The latest data from Statistics New Zealand showed retail spend for the month of January was $5.1 billion with growth in all six retail categories.

Business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said it was the biggest percentage increase since January 2006, although this followed flat results in both November and December.

"The lift in retail card spending in January was across the board, from food and liquor to clothing, petrol, and cars, as well as a bounce back for furniture, hardware, and appliances," Kelly said.

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The largest increase compared to the month before was in the Durables category, which included furniture, hardware and appliance retailing.

The category jumped 3.1 per cent or $37m from the month before, following three months of decline in the sector.

Core retail spending, excluding the vehicle-related industries, rose 2.5 per cent for the month, after falling 0.7 per cent in December and 0.4 per cent in November.

"Trends for the total, retail, and core retail series have generally been rising since these series began in October 2002, but the core retail trend has been easing in recent months," Kelly said.

The total value of electronic card spending rose 2.5 per cent from December.

Westpac Banking Corp economist Satish Ranchhod said the increase was "well above market estimates" with a "very positive" outlook for retail spending in the year ahead.

"Population growth remains strong, employment is up, and we continue to see strong tourist inflows," he said in a note. "With interest rates still relatively low, and a range of other supportive factors in play, we expect that spending will remain firm for some time yet."