Retail sales jumped 0.5% in April compared to the previous month, due to a resurgence in car sales.
Statistics New Zealand says that when motor vehicle and fuel sales are excluded from the April figures, core retailing fell 0.1%.
It says the biggest increases were in motor vehicle retailing and department stores and the biggest decrease was in the other retailing industry.
The total retail sales trend has been falling since January 2008 but has flattened in the last three months.
Westpac markets economist Michael Gordon says any future growth is likely to be muted, partly because of subdued consumer spending.
He says housing market activity is likely to drop off again as mortgage rates begin to rise.