Swipe-happy consumers are paving the way for what may be the strongest Christmas trading period in years.
Statistics New Zealand data for October showed $3.6 billion in electronic card transactions spent across the core retail sector - a 1.8 per cent rise on the same month last year.
There were 116 million electronic card transactions across all industries, compared with 109 million in October 2012, and a seasonally adjusted total spend of $6 billion compared with $5.6 billion last year.
Last October, retail sales fell 0.2 per cent on the previous month and totalled $3.4 billion.
Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said the figures painted a positive picture for festive-season spending.
"We are starting to see a lift and certainly we would expect this now to carry right on through until the end of the year," he said.
"There's been the indications for quite some time now that we are starting to see a slightly more positive consumer out there and once we start to get that positive attitude from consumers, we always see spending rising as a result."
He said retailers around the country were reporting positive outlooks and he expected to see up to 3.5 per cent growth in sales this Christmas.
"Certainly the anecdotal evidence in the industry is that we have got no reason to see a grim Christmas; in fact, we might actually see some positive growth.
"It's not to say that it's easy out there but it's certainly improving."
Bank of New Zealand chief economist Tony Alexander said the figures reflected strong consumer confidence and pointed towards a better Christmas trading period than last year.
"These numbers are stronger than they were a year ago," he said.
"It would be reasonable simply on the basis of these numbers for retailers to be anticipating Christmas to be better this year than last year."
Mr Alexander said the figures, despite their monthly fluctuations, were driven by high job confidence and the growing housing market that provided both financial security and necessity for people to spend.
That was reflected in sales of durables, such as whiteware and house furnishings, that showed people were comfortable to commit to larger purchases.
If the labour market continued to grow, he believed there might be a boom mid-2014.
Electronic card transactions account for two-thirds of retail spending, and debit cards were consistently the most popular payment option.