Santa has come early to Waikato retailers with record numbers of shoppers spending up large.
Paymark figures released yesterday show the Waikato tops the list of increases in spending for the festive season from last year to now.
In the 21 days ending December 20 $238.4 million was spent in electronic transactions, up 5.2 per cent, or $11.8m more than the same time last year.
Te Awa, at The Base in Hamilton, experienced its second-busiest trading day on Thursday and is bracing itself for an even busier day today - the best early Christmas present landowner Tainui Group Holdings, the commercial development arm of the Tainui tribe, could have hoped for.
"We had over 30,000 through on Thursday and that was just Te Awa and doesn't include our large-format retail," chief executive Mike Pohio said.
"It was our biggest day since Boxing Day and we are expecting an even bigger number [today]."
A combination of buoyed consumer confidence, a strong New Zealand dollar and warm and sunny weather had accounted for the busy trade.
But, like any shopping experience, the busy Christmas trade had come with its own niggles, Mr Pohio said.
"The car parks have been busy but the traffic lights that replaced the main roundabout have worked well to ease congestion in and out of the complex," he said. "We just want to remind people Christmas shopping is an exciting time and can be time spent with family, so they shouldn't get too ruffled."
The Paymark figures also reveal what Kiwis are spending their Christmas dollars on. Kiwis are still hard at work on their homes, with flooring and furniture stores reporting spending growth of 20.6 per cent year-on-year and garden stores and hardware/building supply stores up 10.1 per cent and 10.3 per cent respectively.
Many Kiwis may also need to loosen their belt notches this Christmas as food and liquor retailers have reaped the benefits of the party season.
Restaurants, bars and cafes were up 7.3 per cent year-on-year as well as takeaway shops (up 6.5 per cent) and liquor retailers (up 11.5 per cent).
Supermarket owner Chris Grace is leaving the doors of New World Te Rapa open after-hours to cater for late-night shoppers leaving The Base.
Extended hours at The Base had attracted more customers and completed roadworks on the Pukete section of Wairere Dr had improved traffic movement and business was steady from morning till late, Mr Grace said.
"We had to keep the shop open for longer last night because The Base has pushed evening trade out," Mr Grace said. "At 10 o'clock Thursday night we had people turning up to do their shopping." It was a matter of convenience for the customers and staff were willing to put in the extra hours, he said. "We will have barbecues for them every day this week so they don't have to worry about the hassle of feeding themselves. We look after them and they look after the customers, so it is good."
Mr Grace said there was a feeling of optimism in the air and people were more positive about things this Christmas. "The number of companies who have come in and bought hams for staff and hams for clients just indicates that local businesses are a bit more positive. That's a healthy sign.
"There is just a buzz this year that wasn't there last year, so that is a real positive."
- Waikato Times