Tills ringing all over town

Marlborough Christmas shoppers have been out in force during the three weeks leading up to Christmas.

Consumer spending in Marlborough in the 21 days ending on December 20 was up by $1.7 million on last year, according to Paymark figures released on Friday.

Retailers in Marlborough took $36.7m, a 4.9 per cent increase during the same period in 2011, when they took in $35m.

Paymark processes about 75 per cent of all electronic transactions in New Zealand.

The trends appears to have continued since the figures closed, with many Blenheim retailers having a busy few days.

Farmers Blenheim store manager Karen Stevenson said there were barely enough staff to cope with the phenomenal number of shoppers who poured through the doors on Saturday.

She brought in more staff yesterday and the pressure eased, but she expected today to be frantic.

Sales were well up on last year, Mrs Stevenson said. There was no stand-out area, but toys, men's underwear, socks and robes were big sellers and the fragrance department was "really rocking", along with health and beauty.

The expanded store design, with a more discreet lingerie department, seemed to have attracted more men looking for gifts for the women in their lives.

Blenheim Bookworld co-owner Charlene Scott said customers were taking a hard look at electronic readers and books on offer for Christmas. The Market St shop sells Kobo readers in store and ebooks via its website.

However, people were still a little unsure about new reading technology and mostly bought traditional books with pages to turn, she said.

Most popular were biographies of musician Leonard Cohen and rugby great Richie McCaw as well as the children's book Aesop's Kiwi Fables, illustrated by wildlife painter Raymond Ching.

Those titles sold out and had to be re-ordered three times, Mrs Scott said on Saturday.

Her sixth Christmas at Bookworld was a little quieter than last year, she said.

The Paymark figures show that retail spending had increased 4.7 per cent nationally. More than $3.2 billion had gone through the network between November 30 and December 20, $148.7m more than last year.

Paymark chief executive Simon Tong said the results were welcome news for retailers in the last three full shopping days before Christmas.

Restaurants bars and cafes were also benefiting from the party season, up 7.3 per cent. Liquor retailers were up 11.5 per cent and takeaway outlets 6.5 per cent.

The Marlborough Express