Christmas spending splurge expected next week

Waikato shoppers have increased their Christmas spending this week by 4.4 per cent on the same time last year, according to electronic transaction processor Paymark.

Latest figures from Paymark show shoppers in the region spent $76.1 million in the week of December 6-12, $3.3m more than in the same week in 2011.

But Kiwis' spending ahead of Christmas this year may not be on gifts for under the tree.

Data from Paymark, which processes more 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 though 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 $164m 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 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," as Christmas falls on 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.

Shoppers were attracted to its New Zealand-made threads, and there seemed to be more Christmas functions on this year, compared with recent years.

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

Bowden said gift buyers were still considering purchases carefully, and opting for longer-wearing, more functional items, such as bags and belts.

She had heard a lot of people hadn't started their Christmas shopping yet, and expected a strong march into Christmas once most people finished work for the year at the end of next week.

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

That could be related to the uptick in the housing market and house building, he said. "We're in the top-end of the market, and it's starting to pick up."

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 saw a 2.8 per cent increase to $105.8m, while 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.

Paymark sales and marketing head Paul Whiston said based on historical data, spending through its network would rise another 33 per cent by the week ending Christmas Eve.

Waikato Times