NZ electronic card spending drops more than expected in April with 'unusual' figures

Updated

Retail spending with cards has slowed, and by more than labour earnings, as detailed in this ASB chart.

New Zealand retail spending on electronic cards was lower than expected in April as consumers spent less on groceries, liquor and fuel in what Statistics New Zealand described as "unusual" figures.

Seasonally adjusted total retail spending on credit and debit cards fell 2.2 percent in April after lifting 1.5 percent in March, Stats NZ said. Economists had expected the number to be flat, according to a Bloomberg poll. Core retail spending, excluding fuel and vehicles, fell 2.3 percent after lifting 2 percent in the prior month.

"The fall in retail card spending is unusually large. It was driven by a drop in sales of groceries and liquor, as well as an unexpected dip in fuel,” Stats NZ business performance senior manager Peter Dolan said in a statement. “The drop in fuel sales was unexpected because petrol prices rose as much as 9 cents a litre during the April month."

Stats NZ said it looked closely at the "unusual retail sales figures for April". Dolan said the results may be affected by changes in consumer behaviour, payment methods, or the way the electronic card transactions were processed.

"We will continue to explore the data with our suppliers to further understand these movements," Dolan said.

Consumables spending, which covers grocery and liquor retailing, fell 3.6 percent in April. Spending on durables - which includes hardware, furniture and appliances - lifted 0.1 percent in the month while hospitality fell 0.9 percent. Apparel spending lifted 0.1 percent on the month. Spending on vehicles rose 2.9 percent while spending on fuel fell 2.9 percent.

Today's figures show actual total retail spending rose 0.8 percent to $5.07 billion in April from the same month year earlier.

Card-holders across all industries made 139 million transactions in the month, down from 151 million in March. The average value of $49 was unchanged on the month and the year.