New Zealand retail spending on electronic cards edged up in May, led by consumer spending on household essentials such as groceries and fuel.

Seasonally adjusted total retail spending on credit and debit cards rose a modest 0.4 per cent in May following a substantial 2.2 per cent fall in April, Statistics New Zealand said.

Core retail spending, which excludes vehicle-related industries, rose 0.4 per cent in May following a 2.1 per cent fall in April.

"Retailers outside the realm of food and fuel trading have had a relatively quiet month with half the retail industries showing falls," Stats NZ retail trade manager Sue Chapman said. "Spending on personal and household services and non-retail industries including travel, health, and wholesale also dropped in May."

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Card spending rose in three of the six retail industries in May. Consumables spending, which covers grocery and liquor retailing, rose 1.4 per cent in May, rebounding from April's 3.6 per cent fall. Spending on fuel advanced 0.9 per cent, and spending on apparel such as clothing, footwear and accessories slipped 1.8 per cent.

Today's figures show actual total retail spending using electronic cards increased 4.2 per cent in May to $5.2 billion compared with the same month a year earlier.

Card-holders across all industries made 146 million transactions in the month, up from 139 million in April. The average value of $49 was unchanged on the month and the year.

Stats NZ said it has accessed updated information from its suppliers and revised published data from June 2017 through April 2018 after the unusually large drop in April's figures.

At the time of the data release last month, the agency said the results could be affected by changes in consumer behaviour, payment methods, or the way the electronic card transactions were processed.

"We regularly review electronic card transactions data received and examine inconsistent results to ensure releases are economically representative of retail spending in New Zealand," the agency said today.