Official figures show spending in shops had its biggest increase in four years in the first three months of 2011.
Statistics New Zealand says retail spending was 2% higher than in the previous three months.
This was partly due to people in Canterbury replacing goods damaged by the earthquakes.
Sales of fuel, vehicles and parts were the biggest contributors to the increase in retail spending in the March quarter.
Vehicles and parts were $110 million, or almost 6% higher, following a fall of 8% in the final three months of last year.
Fuel sales, boosted by rising petrol prices, rose 5.6%, or by $100 million.
However, Radio New Zealand's economics correspondent says the pick-up was not just confined to vehicle-related sales, or due to higher petrol prices.
Core sales, excluding fuel, vehicles and parts, rose 0.9%, its biggest quarterly increase in nearly two years.
Sales volumes overall, excluding the effects of price increases, rose 0.7%, the biggest increase in 15 months.