It's not only the gift-buying we leave till the last minute - it's increasingly the Christmas dinner shopping too.
New World supermarket shoppers spent 60 per cent more on Christmas Eve last year than they did two years earlier, and rival Countdown is expecting 700,000 people through its doors on Tuesday.
In the leadup, delivery runs are being boosted by about 25 per cent to meet demand for traditional festive fare - strawberries and pavlovas are expected to fly off the shelves.
Figures from New World show it's becoming more common for grocery shoppers to wait until Christmas Eve, with 10 per cent of the chain's shoppers visiting twice that day, according to spokeswoman Jo Jalfon.
Nearly 10,000 were still shopping after 9pm, she said.
The pre-Christmas panic is not a hangover from times when shops closed for days during the holidays, according to Massey University consumer behaviour researcher Valentyna Melnyk.
"I think it's more that people don't want to think about going to the supermarket, for a week. They'd rather hang out with family and friends and just take shopping out of the equation."
And it's normal to leave with far more than is on the grocery list, she says. "People indulge in things they wouldn't normally buy . . . A real Kiwi Christmas, you have to have so much food on the table."
Countdown Lower Hutt store manager Sandi Collins says it's difficult to be organised about last-minute shopping. "They're coming in to make sure they get the fresh strawberries and the fresh cream."
You can't avoid queues, she says. "There's customers at six in the morning waiting at the door. I think they think they'll beat the rush, so they create a rush."
With many people starting their holidays yesterday, Collins thought this year's Christmas Eve was likely to be quieter.
That would be welcome news for Justine Carrington, who was stocking up on holiday supplies at New World Wakefield St yesterday.
Though the Hataitai resident had planned an early Christmas this weekend for her husband's family, she would be joining crowds of holiday-makers in the Thames Pak 'n Save on Christmas Eve on the way to Coromandel for the big day.
"It's crazy. It's always packed with everyone doing the same thing. I hate it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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