Bonanza in town centre

Hordes of shoppers were out in Blenheim's town centre yesterday in a bid to snaffle up bargain buys in what has become one of the biggest retail days of the year.

The bargain-hunting spree follows figures released by Paymark that show spending in Marlborough on Sunday and Monday was up 11.3 per cent on the same days last year, the second-highest increase in spending in the country.

Buyers spent a total of $5.1 million in electronic transfers processed by the company, against $4.6m last year.

A steady stream of shoppers were in town throughout yesterday, making the most of the Boxing Day sales at major outlets and a few of the smaller owner-operated businesses.

Many were out to hook the best deals to prepare for camping or relaxing at the bach during the summer holiday, while others were spending their money on school-related items or for setting up flats at university.

The Warehouse store manager Ian Daubney said the store opened about 20 minutes earlier than the usual 8.30am, as about 200 people were lined up outside waiting to get in.

"We did it on Christmas Eve as well because there were so many people waiting," he said.

Turnover had picked up in the three to four days leading up to Christmas, although foot traffic at the store had remained steady.

"It hasn't been hectic. There's been a good number of people coming through, but they haven't been coming through in droves.

"It's been like this right throughout the year."

Outdoor furniture and inflatable swimming pools were among the popular items going out the door yesterday, he said.

Noel Leeming store manager Derek Johnson said they opened at 7.30am, an hour and a half earlier than usual because about 20 people were waiting at the door.

"It's been a hectic morning," he said.

"It's definitely our busiest time of year."

By noon they had sold out of some items advertised in their Boxing Day mailer, such as washing machines, $5 mobile phones and PlayStation 3 consoles.

Thomas's department store co-owner Hamish Thomas said they were trading at a similar rate to last year and the store had been "pretty busy".

"It's certainly ramped up in the last week."

But the Marlborough District Council needed to do more to encourage people to shop in the town centre, he said.

"A lot of other regions around the country did free parking for Christmas Eve, but here we had our parking wardens on."

This lack of collaboration and an increasing number of people doing their shopping online was hurting some retailers, he said.

Blenheim Bookworld co-owner Charlene Scott said it was the first time they had opened on Boxing Day.

Opening yesterday had been a good opportunity to move stock and encourage people to shop in the store rather than online.

"We open as often as we can to combat the online component. But there's also more people in town at this time of year so it makes sense from a business point of view."

Michael Hill Jewellers store manager Gareth Jenkins said the lead-up to Christmas had been much busier than last year.

Peak shopping times had been at the beginning of the month and with last-minute shoppers during the week before Christmas, he said.

Dick Smith Blenheim store manager Jason Elsmore said foot traffic yesterday had been similar to last year and he was happy with the number of sales going through.

"People are usually shopping the whole day. They usually come in, then shop around trying to find the best deals before they come back."

Tablets, gaming consoles and laptops or notebooks were among the popular sellers.

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

Company spokesman Paul Whiston said spending nationally was up 7.1 per cent on Sunday and Monday.

Nelson recorded the highest regional spend in the country, at 11.4 percent.

This year, the city amassed $8.3m in eftpos transactions on the two days compared to $7.5m during the same period last year.

The highest transaction rate was recorded at 12.24pm on Christmas Eve, at 148 per second.

On December 23, $235 million had been handled in electronic transactions, he said.

The Marlborough Express