New Zealand retail sales gained in the fourth quarter, led again by motor vehicle and parts retailing, with eleven of the 15 industries monitored seeing higher sales volumes.

The volume of retail sales increased a seasonally adjusted 0.8 per cent in the three months ended December 31, from a 0.9 per cent rise in the September quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. The total value of retail sales, seasonally adjusted, rose 1.1 per cent in the quarter to $21.08 billion.

Motor vehicle and parts retailing saw sales volumes rise 1.9 per cent, while volumes in core retail - which excludes motor vehicles and fuel - rose 0.6 per cent in December, outperforming September's 0.2 per cent growth, the agency said.

"This is the third consecutive quarter this industry has been at the forefront of retail quarterly movements. Rises of 3.1 per cent and 3.0 per cent were seen in the September and June 2016 quarters, respectively. Several dealer respondents commented on having a very busy quarter - showroom upgrades, promotions, and more general customer-focused marketing resulted in higher sales," Statistics New Zealand commented. "In actual terms, New Zealand Transport Agency figures continued to show increases for registrations of passenger vehicles, up 11 per cent in the December 2016 quarter from the same period in 2015."

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Sales values rose for 13 of the 15 industries in the quarter, led by motor vehicle and parts retailing, which rose 2.7 per cent to $4.86b. Pharmaceutical and other store-based retail rose 3.1 per cent to $1.36b and accommodation rose 4 per cent to $946m, while non-store and commission-based retailing dropped 4.8 per cent to $345m.

The North Island saw sales values rise 1.2 per cent to $16.1b in the quarter, with $7.92b of that in Auckland, $2.03b in Waikato and $2.02b in Wellington. Sales values rose 1.5 per cent to $5b in the South Island.

On an unadjusted basis, the value of retail spending rose 4.7 per cent to $22.8b in the December quarter compared with the same quarter in 2015.