Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty retailers were preparing for what was expected to be one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Shoppers were expected to fill stores across the region today as people lined up for Boxing Day bargains.

Papamoa Plaza centre manager David Hill was expecting the biggest Christmas ever at the shopping mall, with December 26 traditionally being the busiest retail day of the year.

Hill said the store was up 7 to 9 per cent in sales from last year and 20 per cent up on gift voucher sales.

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"Boxing Day is the biggest day for gift vouchers of the year, everyone has been gifted one for Christmas and they have got a gift voucher burning a hole in their pockets that they want to come and spend."

There were 16,000 shoppers through the doors last year which was a fair chunk of the Papamoa population, Hill said. He was expecting numbers to soar this Boxing Day.

"We are expecting a huge day," Hill said.

He said the shopping frenzy was due to the centre's 12 additional stores from last year.

Bayfair Shopping Centre manager Steve Ellingford expected Boxing Day spending to be "as big as normal".

Ellingford said the centre was opening an hour earlier at 8am today to accommodate the demand.

"It is all about offering our customers the time to shop."

Ellingford said it had generally been a good festive season.

"Based on what we have seen it will be a good December for sales. It seems people are confident and are spending subject to providing the right offer product and customer experience."

Downtown Tauranga spokeswoman Sally Cooke said traditionally Boxing Day was a big trading day.

"A lot of people have gift vouchers to spend. Hopefully we will see the traditional busy Boxing Day again this year."

Cooke said the festive season was a fantastic time of year for the hospitality and retail sectors.

"The water park on The Strand is an added attraction to people dining and shopping downtown."

Mount Mainstreet manager Ingrid Fleming expected Mount Maunganui to be bustling with shoppers on Boxing Day.

Fleming said passengers on the Golden Princess cruise ship, which was expected to dock the Port of Tauranga at 7am today, would also add to the hustle and bustle.

People were eager to spend up large post-Christmas because for many people it was their only chance to shop as they were on holiday, Fleming said.

"Plus there could be some good bargains post-Christmas - and who doesn't love a bargain?"

A Paymark spokesman said the pre-Christmas build-up usually started to increase in November and climbed to a frenzy of activity in the last few days of December.

Based on 2006, when Christmas Day last fell on a Monday, the busiest shopping day was believed to be the same day as last year, December 23.

"But generally the entire last week is busy," the spokesman said.