New Zealand retail sales volumes rose in the September quarter as strong motor vehicle activity and a pick-up in consumer electronics drove consumer spending, beating expectations.

The volume of retail sales gained a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent in the three months ended September 30, accelerating from a quarterly expansion of 0.1 percent in the June period, according to Statistics New Zealand.

That was ahead of the 1.3 percent rise predicted in a Reuters poll of economists, and was led by a 5 percent increase in spending on motor vehicles and parts and a 6.6 percent rise in expenditure on electrical and electronic goods.

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Stripping out vehicle-related purchases, core retail sales volumes increased 1 percent, compared to zero growth in the June quarter. The value of total retail sales, which includes price fluctuations, rose a seasonally adjusted 1.4 percent to $19.86 billion.

"Several car dealers told us they experienced a very busy September quarter, and were on target to achieve record sales this year," business indicators senior manager Neil Kelly said in a statement.

Motor Industry Association figures earlier this month showed new vehicle sales had their strongest October month on record with 12,684 new registrations, and were on track to trump 2014's annual record of 127,352 sales.

Today's survey shows the volume of sales at supermarket and grocery stores rose 0.7 percent in the quarter, while values were up 0.1 percent to $4.43 billion. Food and beverage services volumes rose 2.4 percent for a 2.9 percent rise in values to $2.22 billion, while fuel retailing volumes rose 1.3 percent for a 0.5 percent decline in values to $1.9 billion.

Several car dealers told us they experienced a very busy September quarter, and were on target to achieve record sales this year.

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Non-store and commission-based retailing, which includes local online vendors, rose 8.7 percent on a volume basis for a 7.4 percent increase in value to $320 million.
Spending on recreational goods showed the biggest decline, falling 5.8 percent on a volume basis for a 6.1 percent drop in value to $525 million.

On an unadjusted basis, the volume of retail spending rose 5.7 percent from the September quarter in 2014 for a 4.8 percent increase in value spent to $19.2 billion. Stripping out vehicle related spending, the volume of core retail sales rose 5.2 percent for a 5.4 percent rise in value to $14.49 billion.

Retailers' inventories were 4.9 percent higher at $7.24 billion at the end of the quarter from a year earlier, with core retail stocks up 5.2 percent to $5.5 billion.

See the full retail trade stats here: