New Zealanders spent up large in the September quarter, upgrading their phones, TVs and electronic gadgets, new figures from Statistics NZ show.

Retail spending rose by 1.6 per cent in the September quarter, well above the average market forecast for a 0.5 per cent gain, taking annual growth to 4.5 per cent.

Electrical and electronic goods retailing had the largest rise of all 15 retail industries, with sales volumes up 4.4 per cent after increasing 5.2 per cent in the June quarter.

"Higher electronic sales volumes in the quarter coincided with some retailers promoting sales of big-screen televisions before the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which started near the end of September," retail statistics manager Sue Chapman said.


The electrical and electronic goods industry has shown consistent growth for over seven years, after a slight fall in March 2012.

"Products like TVs, computers, and mobile phones are getting cheaper, and New Zealanders are buying more of them," Chapman said.

Despite falling prices, sales values of this industry were up 3.4 per cent in the September quarter.

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Westpac economist Satish Ranchhod noted that spending increases were widespread across retail categories. As well as electronics the home furnishing category also rose sharply, consistent with the recent firming in the housing market, he said.

Spending was also up in department stores and supermarkets.

"Strong retail spending result supports our view that New Zealand's economic cycle is starting to turn," Ranchhod said.

"Low interest rates are boosting the housing market, and that in turn is boosting spending appetites. Combined with increases in Government spending, we expect to see retail spending continuing to lift through late 2019 and 2020."


The Reserve Bank effectively called on New Zealanders to get out and spend more to boost the economy when it cut rates by 50 basis point in August.

"Lower than otherwise interest rates absolutely are done to stimulate spending. Spending can be investment, spending can be consumption, and it can be across many different sectors," Orr said told Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee at the time.

Orr appears to be getting the stimulatory lift he was looking for.

"Our feel for consumer spending is that it's trending steadily higher," said BNZ economist Craig Ebert.

On that basis the rise for the September quarter probably "overstated the case", he said.

Ebert also noted the timing of the Rugby World Cup which was broadcast of streaming TV and may have sparked a spike in TV sales.

But previous quarters had also seen strong lifts in the electronic goods category so he was wary of over-interpreting the impact.

ASB economists, who this week argued that the economy will continue slowing for several more months, said they did not expect the strong retail surge to last.

"Wage growth has picked up, activity in the housing market is springing to life, and consumers are feeling more optimistic over their own situation," said senior economist Mark Smith.

Nevertheless, he did not expect the pace of retail momentum to be sustained citing a mixed housing market, high debt levels and falling rate of population growth.

"The expansion in growth is likely to disappoint the RBNZ view, Smith said. "As a
result, the OCR looks set to move lower over 2020."