New Zealanders say they are worried about money this festive season but latest spending figures reveal retailers took more than a billion dollars from shoppers in just one week of the pre-Christmas rush.

According to one poll of 700 Christmas shoppers in Auckland, Tauranga and Christchurch, 49 per cent were approaching their present buying with budget constraints top of mind.

The annual Christmas poll by AMP Capital Shopping Centres (AMPCSC) asked the respondents a range of questions about their shopping plans, and identified several new trends.

Only 26 per cent of those surveyed said they would probably spend more than they could afford, compared with 38 per cent last year.


Almost 40 per cent of respondents reported feeling "a bit pinched" financially, with 26 per cent planning to buy less expensive gifts than last year, and 20 per cent cutting back on gifts altogether.

A quarter of them intended to buy "fewer but better" presents, the figures showed. Last year's number one cause of stress, "crowds in shopping centres" dropped to second place this year with the largest chunk of respondents saying they were "really stressed" by financial pressures.

The third biggest stressor at 35 per cent was "people who are difficult to buy gifts for". Sixty-nine per cent of respondents believed frugality was widespread among Kiwis, and that in general people were "still being very cautious" with spending.

AMPCSC senior marketing manager Desiree Clark said having a plan before going shopping was a great way to avoid impulse buying, and to ensure families are left with enough cash to enjoy the holiday season.

"It also helps to prevent a complaint that one in five people identified as a source of stress - the post-Christmas bills."

The survey found the only area where expenditure had risen was eating out with 39 per cent of respondents spending more on lunches, dinners and coffees than last year.

That coincided with Paymark figures released yesterday which showed Christmas celebration spending was up 7 per cent at restaurants, cafes and bars, and 9.3 per cent at liquor outlets between December 6 and 12.

Paymark, which processes around three-quarters of all electronic transactions in New Zealand, saw more than $1 billion pass through its network during that week. Spending in the seven days was up 4.1 per cent on the same dates for 2011, and the busiest shopping day so far this month was December 7, a Friday, with $164 million through the tills.

Paymark head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston said the upward bias in growth comes at a good time for retailers. "Preparations for the busiest week of the year are in full swing, and retailers will be looking to past trends as an indication of what's to come," Mr Whiston said.

"Based on historical data, we can expect spending through the Paymark network to rise another 33 per cent by the week ending the 24th of December."

*The AMPCSC November online questionnaire was of 700 customers of shopping centres in Auckland, Christchurch and Mount Maunganui. The margin of error is 3.7 per cent.
Smart shopping tips

*Set a budget
*Shop around
*Buy for a set list of people
*Use cash and only withdraw the amount budgeted

Where we are spending

*Hardware, building supply outlets
*Appliance stores
*Floor covering and furniture shops

Where spending has dipped

*Clothing, apparel, jewellery.

What we are most worried about

*Money/financial pressure
*Hard-to-buy-for people
*Crowded malls
*Gaining weight
*Last-minute shopping

Sources:, Paymark, AMPCSC survey