Retail spending was flat in November, as shoppers bought the basics and cut back on extras.
Official figures show total retail sales rose 1.5%, largely due to a rebound in car sales and higher fuel prices.
Excluding these factors, core retail sales fell 0.2% led by a sharp drop in spending at the supermarket.
Goldman Sachs economist Philip Borkin says consumer spending is likely to remain weak for some time.
Boost for manufacturing boost
Manufacturing activity continued to expand in December, suggesting the sector is rebounding after a dire few years.
The BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index rose for the third month in a row in December, reaching 53.1.
A reading above 50 points indicates the sector is expanding.
Export New Zealand says the figures show evidence of a predicted rebound.