Swipe the cards because Santa is coming to town

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 08:24 08/12/2012

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Christmas has finally started for Waikato retailers, reports Andrea Fox.

Waikato had the highest regional growth in spending last month, with its shoppers pushing Canterbury off the top spot by spending 6.5 per cent more than they did in November last year.

Latest figures from eftpos system provider Paymark show that last month Waikato shoppers did 6.03 million transactions compared to 5.66 million in November 2011, a rise of 6.7 per cent, with the value of their spending rising 6.5 per cent to nudge $300 million.

Canterbury, which had been leading the regional spending charge since June, posted spending growth of 5.7 per cent, while Auckland/Northland also experiencing strong growth at 5.2 per cent.

Paymark head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston said November figures suggested the party season had started, with spending at cafes and restaurants up 9.3 per cent and liquor outlets seeing a 10 per cent rise in spending on recent months.

John Lawrenson, of The Lawrenson Group which owns several Hamilton restaurants and bars, said they had definitely seen an increase in bookings.

"We've already had a couple of venues literally at the point where they were fully booked and couldn't take any more at all," he said.

"We're making hay while the sun shines. I'm pretty happy, it's starting to get that Christmas feel, we're definitely getting into that good season."

Bobbie Knight, manager at Hamilton's Metropolis Cafe, said business had picked up as usual with school holidays, work breaks and functions and Christmas parties kicking in over the past few weeks.

Nationwide during the month of November, the number of card transactions was 5.1 per cent up on last November, with debit card use at 5.2 per cent up, increasing faster than credit card swiping which showed 4.9 per cent growth for the second month in a row.

Countrywide, the figures showed a slight rise in national spending across the Paymark network, which processes about 75 per cent of all electronic transactions. Last month saw 4.6 per cent growth in value compared to November last year, and a 1 per cent lift on October.

Mr Whiston said the increase in pre-Christmas spending had followed the pattern of recent years. "We have seen the usual lift in spending from mid-November and the last seven days of the month were up 10.4 per cent on the comparable period last year.

"Looking at the past five years, this increase is in line with the average November spending trends, however despite the increase we are aware that for many retailers it is still tough going.

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"Based on historic figures, we expect the real rush is yet to come. Between 2007 and 2011 spending jumped an average of 27 per cent, from November to December as Kiwis ramped up their card usage in anticipation of Christmas."

Paymark said the sharp increase could be partly attributed to November 2012 having one more Friday than November last year.

Hardware stores recorded a 10.4 per cent lift in November spending, which Paymark said was consistent with higher spending on housing in general.

Other sectors to experience growth above the 4.6 per cent national average include automotive outlets (7.9 per cent) and clothing shops (6.5 per cent).

Additional reporting Siena Yates

- Waikato

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