A rise in consumer confidence in Hawke's Bay resulted in an extra $6.6 million being pumped into retailers' coffers last month.
Figures released by Paymark, which processes about 75 per cent of New Zealand's electronic card transactions, showed $106.9 million was spent in Hawke's Bay last month - a 6.6 per cent year-on-year increase.
Hastings City Business Association city centre manager Susan McDade said local consumers had developed a more positive outlook when it came to retail spending.
"I think that they're starting to feel like we're coming out of the worst of it and people are starting to make some investments - both in their homes and in some more discretionary spending as well."
Moving location had been successful for some Hastings retailers, Ms McDade said.
"I think Farmers has done quite well with its new store - definitely over last year.
"The retailers around there who choose to stay open longer hours are definitely finding an increase with that." Smaller boutique retailers had also been doing well.
During the next year "some real changes in the mindset of people starting to relax a bit" was expected, Ms McDade said.
"It's a hard one because on one hand we have the drought and so really I think that in the rural sector they've been hit fairly hard this last year. But then you look at reflections of spending like this and in general I think that people are starting to look a lot more positively."
Nationwide, spending jumped 3.9 per cent during the first four months of 2013.
Year-on-year spending increases were highest at building and hardware stores (up 9.6 per cent) and pharmacies (up 6 per cent). Hospitality businesses (up 4.8 per cent) also recorded increases, along with food and liquor outlets (up 4.1 per cent).
It had been a "positive start to the year for retailers in general", Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston said.
The number of card transactions last month was 6.2 per cent higher than a year ago, with credit card usage up 10.5 per cent and debit card usage up 4.9 per cent.
NZ Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said there was "a slightly better feeling of optimism" amongst retailers.
"The feedback is more positive than it has been for a while.
Consumer confidence had improved, which drove retail spending more than anything, Mr Albertson said.
"Once you get a positive consumer, then you start to get the sales coming through."
Modest gains over the past four months were also reported in big ticket retail stores - such as appliance and sporting equipment, where spending was up 2.8 per cent.
Accommodation providers also reported a 2.1 per cent spending lift.
By the numbers
April 2013 - 2.22 million transactions in Hawke's Bay; $106.9 million spent (6.6 per cent year-on-year increase); 78.79 million transactions nationwide; $3.91 billion spent (5.9 per cent increase)
April 2012 - 2.08 million transactions in Hawke's Bay; $100.3 million spent; 74.22 million transactions nationwide; $3.69 billion spent.