11 Sep 2017

Payments by plastic remain subdued

2:33 pm on 11 September 2017

Retail sales using electronic cards have fallen for the fourth month in a row, with the drop blamed on the housing market slowdown.

Online shopping concept

Photo: RNZ

Official data shows sales fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in August on the previous month, compared with a 0.6 percent drop in July.

Spending increased on fuel, groceries and liquor, but was down for clothing, and in bars and restaurants.

Core sales, which leave out vehicle-related sales such as fuel, were also down 0.2 percent on the previous month.

Total electronic card sales, including paying for services, were higher.

Westpac senior economist Satish Ranchhod said spending using cards would be moderate, not spectacular in the coming months.

"In part, this subdued growth in spending levels reflects the softness in prices, particularly for imported consumer goods. However, it is likely that the softening in the housing market is also playing a role in depressing household spending," he said.

Mr Ranchhod said households were also focused on paying down debt.

Official data from the Reserve Bank shows household debt was $201 billion in the June quarter, up from $187.6b in the previous year.

The electronic card numbers cover sales using debit and credit cards, and capture about two-thirds of retail sales.

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