Shoppers splashing out for festive season

Cantabrians are flocking to the shops and splashing out for Christmas, new figures show.

The latest Paymark spending statistics show spending in the first three weeks of December is 6.4 per cent ahead of the same time last year.

Dollar-wise that means $22.8 million more in retailers' tills.

In total locals have spent $379.4m over the three weeks. That means Canterbury has the largest increase in December shopping and the second-largest shopping bill in the country, after the Auckland/Northland region which recorded spending of $1.3 billion.

Christchurch department store Ballantynes managing director Mary Devine said the store was trading "really well".

"We're delighted. We're thinking December might get close to pre-earthquake levels."

Homewares and pantry items in particular were selling well and foot traffic was up.

"Transaction numbers are significantly up on last year which means more people coming in."

Strong sales suggested improved confidence and a sense of a "real recovery" in the city, she said.

It was proving to be a record December after a difficult year in retail for Frogmore owner Rosemary Austin.

"Since the beginning of December it's probably been better than any other Christmas," she said. "I think maybe everyone left it [shopping] until later, maybe there wasn't quite the early shopping we would normally experience, and it's been very steady all through December."

People were buying meaningful, carefully chosen gifts, rather than more frivolous items.

However, House and Garden in Riccarton said the earthquakes had subdued sales in Christchurch because many people were waiting on rebuilds or repairs.

"For the garden industry there is a boom time ahead as people rebuild and when that momentum picks up. But it is pretty muted so far," a staff member said.