Jingling tills all the way

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 05:00 29/12/2013

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A nearly $5 billion dollar shopping spree over the past 28 days marks a spectacular end to years of economic gloom in New Zealand.

Between November 30 and December 27, New Zealanders used their electronic debit and credit cards to spend $4.682 billion.

That's about $1300 for every person over 15.

Spending peaked on Christmas Eve with $238.4 million through 116,000 terminals - about $67 each and up 18.5 per cent on Christmas Eve 2012.

Boxing Day jumped year-on-year by 12 per cent.

Paymark's Paul Whiston says the 28-day total spend is a 7.2 per cent jump on the same period last year.

It's a decisive shift away from the limp two to three per cent annual increases of the past five years that could be accounted for just by price rises and demographics. Not this time - people are spending much more.

"It is a genuine increase in spending," he says.

"The indications are that there is some consumer confidence out there. In the last few months we've seen an upswing."

Paymark processes 75 per cent of New Zealand's electronic transactions, but Whiston says they haven't supplanted cash yet - so the spending boost is certain to be much bigger than just the electronic transactions show.

"There is as much cash or even slightly more cash in the economy than there has ever been," he says.

Reserve Bank figures show there is $4.2 billion in cash floating around at any given time.

"There is still a lot of cash in the economy," says Whiston.

The average eftpos spend on Christmas Eve - $54.80 per swipe - is heavily influenced by food and alcohol. People stock-up for family gatherings and closed shops.

The same factor makes the day before Good Friday at Easter another of the year's big spends.

On Christmas Eve this year we spent 28 per cent more at food and liquor retailers than we did last year.

Boxing Day numbers saw furniture stores do 17.5 per cent better than last year and appliances and whiteware was up 16.6 per cent.

Despite a Vodafone glitch in Wellington with eftpos on Boxing Day, Whiston says New Zealanders lead the world with electronic payments - doing 250 transactions per year each, nearly twice the rate of the next busiest nation, Canada.

Whiston says cards are unlikely to finish off cash just yet, but he questions how much longer banks will persist with cheques.

Paying with mobile phones is likely to be the next big thing as "convenience and speed get more prevalent."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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