24 Dec 2018

Tills ringing merrily this Christmas but spending up only 1%

7:42 pm on 24 December 2018

Tills have been ringing busily in malls and stores around New Zealand as people stock up for tomorrow's feasting and festivities.

Christmas shopping in Wellington.

Christmas shopping in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

But how much have we actually spent? Paymark collates all the figures on Christmas spending and its spokesman, Darren Hopper, said Saturday was the biggest day for transactions, with an average of 182 transactions a second.

In one particularly busy minute on Saturday afternoon an incredible 10,500 transactions were handled.

Mr Hopper said retailers are likely to be pleased but unexcited with this year's Christmas spending, as the running total for December's first 23 days was only up 1 percent compared with last year.

"The impact of Black Friday is now clear with a peak in November followed by a flat period for the start of December and a strong pick-up towards the end of the Christmas period."

The biggest day spending-wise was 20 December when $296 million crossed the country's counters, a figure slightly less than last year's peak of $299m on 22 December.

However, Mr Hopper said overall spending for this month is on track to hit $5 billion once Christmas Eve shopping is tallied up.

"Christmas Eve is often the busiest spending day of the year, however when [it] falls on a Monday, as it has this year, the shopping tends to get spread over the previous days as well."

He said there have been differences in certain types of spending this year, compared with last.

"Spending last week amongst jewellery and watch merchants was down slightly (.02 percent) on last year, while boaties should not expect too much for Christmas as marine merchant annual spending growth was also a meagre 0.2 percent."

Santa Claus doing grocery shopping at the supermarket,

Supermarkets and liquor outlets saw plenty of shoppers making purchases last weekend. Photo: 123RF

He said food and liquor spending took greater prominence last weekend, with spending on those items up 32 percent on the previous weekend as households stocked up for Christmas.

The total spent on those items was $130.5m, before Christmas Eve spending is factored in.

Palmerston North experienced the biggest percentage increase in spending compared with last year, rising 8.6 percent.

On the other hand Gisborne, South Canterbury, the West Coast and Wairarapa all saw a decrease in spending compared with the festive period of 2017.

Mr Hopper said those falls could be because sometimes people in the regions are more organised with their Christmas shopping. Unlike in the big cities, it is not so easy to pop down the road and pick up some last-minute items, he said.

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