Deck the halls with rolls of carpet . . .

Kiwis are spending more ahead of Christmas this year, according to eftpos network operator Paymark, but it may not be on gifts for under the tree.

Data from Paymark, which processes wore than three- quarters of electronic payments in retail, suggests the rush to buy presents is still to come.

Paymark said shoppers put just over $1 billion through its network in the week ending Wednesday. That was up 4.1 per cent on the same week last year by date. The busiest shopping day for December so far was Friday the 7th, with just over $164 million charged over the network.

Spending was up year-on-year in housing-related retail, including at hardware and building supplies, appliance and floor- covering and furniture stores, but down slightly in traditional gift categories such as clothing and jewellery and consumer electronics.

Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said that the increases in big-ticket and housing-related spending probably reflected a slightly more positive outlook.

"I don't think there's a lot of Christmas in there yet . . . unless people are giving each other rolls of carpet."

There was always a "mad panic" rush on shops in the week or so before Christmas Day - and clothes, jewellery and electronics featured high up on shopping lists.

"This weekend will be big but next weekend will be even bigger.

"And I suspect Monday could well be a very big day for the supermarkets [with Christmas falling on the Tuesday]."

There was probably a connection between the increase in housing-related spending and the 6 per cent lift in spending in Canterbury year-on-year to $120.3m, he said.

"Householders are probably starting to re-equip with insurance money."

Clare Bowden, owner of Wellington menswear store Mandatory, said her business appeared to be bucking the clothing sector trend, with trading "pretty strong" going into Christmas.

Paymark said spending at restaurants, cafes and bars was up 7 per cent year on year for the week ending Wednesday, to $81.4m.

Ian Horsefield, export manager at FL Bone & Son - which sells architectural hardware and appliances, said trading was definitely up on last year and even on the past few months.

That could be related to the pickup in the housing market and house building, he said.

Paymark said Wairarapa saw the strongest year-on-year spending growth for the week, up 7 per cent to $9.7m.

Auckland and Northland were slightly over the national average increase of 4.1 per cent, with $422.9m spent.

Wellington spending increased 2.8 per cent to $105.8m, and Hawke's Bay spending was up 4.6 per cent to $29.2m and Taranaki-Taupo spending lifted 3.6 per cent to $23.8m. Fairfax NZ

Taranaki Daily News