Bay spending hits five year high

By Joseph Aldridge

This year's Boxing Day sales hit a five-year high in the Bay of Plenty, according to the latest Paymark figures.

The biggest shopping day of the year ended with an increase in spending levels of close to 10 per cent on the previous year.

Nationally, spending levels were up 13 per cent on last year, while the value of spending in the Bay rose 9.7 per cent to $8.7 million.

Boxing Day spending in the Bay was $7 million in 2007, $7.6 million in 2010 and $7.9 million last year.

Paymark head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston said the strong Boxing Day numbers were a fantastic finish to what had already been a positive month of spending, and a return to the kinds of growth figures seen before the global financial crisis.

"Yesterday we saw over two million transactions [nationally] and $120 million in sales ... $14.2 million up on Boxing Day last year.

"This is the first time in five years we've seen double-digit growth and we're rapt for retailers."

Downtown Tauranga manager Kirby Weis said the positive sales figures showed the Bay of Plenty, particularly Tauranga and Mount Maunganui, had bounced back as a summer holiday destination.

The Rena oil spill hit the region's tourism sector particularly hard last year, with many holiday-makers choosing to stay away, he said.

"After the things that happened in the past year, the Bay of Plenty and Tauranga has got itself back on the map as a place to come and visit."

Mount Maunganui had the second-highest demand for holiday accommodation of any place in New Zealand this year, Mr Weis said.

He thought central Tauranga had done "quite well" from the Boxing Day sales. Scene in the City owner Kimberley Clark agreed. "It was a really, really good day, much better than last year. I had a sale on but even items that weren't on sale were selling."

However, some central city retailers said Boxing Day spending was dominated by big chain stores and suburban shopping centres.

Glassons Tauranga store manager Lauren Bennett said her store produced the second-lowest sales figures of any Glassons store in New Zealand, while the Bayfair store had sold three times as much. Available car parks explained the difference, she said.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the figures probably just proved that New Zealand shoppers were savvy when it came to spending their cash during sale time. "That sort of jump tells me people have been waiting for the sales."

There was some positive news for retailers though as next year would probably see higher spending than between 2008 and this year. "But do I think it's going back to the lofty retail sales activity we were seeing pre-2007? The answer's 'hell no'."

Households still had a zero savings rate, Mr Bagrie said.

Nationally, Paymark saw significant growth in the electronics sector including computers and phones, with sales up 31.7 per cent annually.

The firm, which processes 75 per cent of all electronic transactions, also saw apparel and jewellery rise, up 20.7 per cent and 24.4 per cent respectively.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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