New Zealanders spent less on their credit and debit cards in January, snapping three months of gains, with apparel showing the sharpest decline.

The value of electronic card spending on retail fell 0.5 per cent to a seasonally adjusted $4.54 billion in January, according to Statistics New Zealand. Core retailing, which excludes spending on fuel and auto-related items, dropped 0.8 per cent to $3.66 billion.

Spending on apparel fell 2.8 per cent to $289 million, while expenditure on durable items fell 1.3 per cent to $1.08 billion and consumables were down 0.5 per cent to $1.58 billion. Hospitality spending was the only core retail industry to gain in January, up 0.7 per cent to $709 million.

"January card spending was softer than expected, but follows a period of strength," ASB economist Daniel Smith said in a note. "It does not change our view on consumer spending, which we expect will continue to grow healthily over 2014."


Spending on fuel slipped 0.1 per cent to $758 million in January and expenditure on vehicles fell 0.3 per cent to $128 million. Expenditure on services rose 1.1 per cent to $209 million, and on non-retail industries was up 1.5 per cent to $1.28 billion.

On an unadjusted basis, total spending on electronic cards rose 6.4 per cent to $6 billion in January from the same month a year earlier.

There were 114 million transactions on electronic cards in January, at an average value of $53. About 54.8 per cent of all transactions were on debit cards, with the remainder on credit.

Electronic card transactions account for about two-thirds of all retail spending.