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Consumers appeared to try to beat the rise in GST at the start of this month by bringing forward household purchases to September, the latest electronic card transactions show.
Statistics New Zealand figures show electronic card transactions on total retail spending increased 1.5% in September and ex-auto retail spending increased 1.4%.
ASB economist Christina Leung said the increase was driven by a 4% increase in spending on durables, reflecting the purchases of major household items before the GST increase to 15% on October 1.
The actual value of core retail transactions was up 5.2% from September 2009.
Ms Leung said in addition, consumable spending increased 1.1% while fuel spending increased 2.9% in September.
"These results are in line with reports from Paymark earlier last week of a rush on the last day of September to fill up on groceries and petrol ahead of the GST increase the next day.
"In particular, there was much publicity towards the end of September that petrol would increase by 7c a litre at the start of October as a result of an increase in GST and excise taxes."
That prompted queues at petrol stations as drivers rushed to fill up their tanks, she said.
Beyond the GST increase, the recovery in retail spending appeared to remain in place with spending on services ticking up 0.2%, building on the robust 3.1% increase in the previous month.
The 0.5% increase in spending on apparel reversed out the previous month's decline.
The spend-up on durables in September could mean a fall in spending in October.
However, the broad-based nature of the improvement in spending in September suggested the recovery in retail spending remained in place.
"This is encouraging in light of the subdued results seen in recent business surveys and suggests retailers' expectations of an improvement in sales will eventuate," Ms Leung said.