Shops are bracing for a rush of last-minute Christmas shopping today, with new figures already showing a big jump in sales compared with last December.
Paymark figures released yesterday indicate shoppers are in a confident mood - more than $3.5 billion has been spent on their eftpos cards during the first three weeks of December, an increase of 6.9 per cent on the same period last year.
Botany Town Centre in Auckland was expecting a last-minute rush after strong sales throughout December, said the centre's senior marketing manager, Desiree Clark.
"There are usually a good deal of shoppers who try and do the lot in one go on Christmas Eve."
Paymark, which processes around three-quarters of New Zealand's electronic transactions, said last Friday was the busiest day of the year so far, with $235.6 million through the tills, up 5.7 per cent on the same day last year.
Paymark head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston said growth so far for December was ahead of the year-to-date average.
The usual pre-Christmas jump continued last week, with Kiwis spending more than $1.3 billion between December 15 and 21.
However the annual growth rate had slowed as the month progressed, from 8.6 per cent in the first week of December to a 6.9 per cent average over the month-to-date.
That could either indicate better planning, or shoppers relying on last-minute purchases to get everything done, he said.
Growth was sustained across a number of sectors including accommodation (11.9 per cent), restaurants, bars and cafes (10.4 per cent), takeaways (10.4 per cent) and hardware/building supplies (10.1 per cent), the Paymark figures showed.
Auckland/Northland shoppers spent about $1.4 billion in the first three weeks of December, up 6.5 per cent on the same period last year.
This year had produced the best Christmas for spending in Auckland since 2007, Mr Whiston said.
Palmerston North (9 per cent) led spending growth in the regions over the first three weeks of December, followed by Marlborough (8.7 per cent) and Canterbury (7.6 per cent).
Auckland shoppers interviewed on Sunday said the crowds were more manageable than they had expected.
Suchika Khullar said crowds at St Lukes weren't too hectic.
"It was much busier last week. I'm normally pretty organised but I've got a couple that I haven't done."
Rangi Williams and Stephano Rampling were picking up groceries at Pak'nSave Sylvia Park on Sunday, and said they had left some shopping to the last minute.
But Ms Williams said the crowds weren't as bad as expected.
"I was expecting worse. It had a nice flow in there, it was easy to grab things."
Ash Chandra and Nileema Singh, who were shopping at Sylvia Park mall, said they wouldn't be making any last-minute dash to the shops.
"I think we've got everything done, we're just relaxing now," said Ms Chandra.
"I think this year it's more about having lunches and dinners and family time than shopping."
Last-minute gift ideas
Boutique scented Archipelago Candle $69.95 at Isabel Harris
T-shirt or shirt from $29.99 at Barkers
Fluoro-coloured anything: Try jewellery ranges at Equip or Diva from $9.99
Remote-controlled helicopters from $29 at Noel Leeming
If you're not comfortable revealing the dollar value spent at their favourite store, think of pampering them with a massage or beauty treatment
Gourmet tea and tea ware from $15 at T2 stores in Queen St and Newmarket
Gift packs of wine, craft beer or spirits from $19.99 at Glengarry
Subscription for a magazine or the New Zealand Herald. Phone 0800-100-888
Crazy About Pets Cat Santa Suit $20.98 at Animates
Crazy About Pets Christmas Dog Antlers $14.96 to $19.96 at Animates
- additional reporting Heather McCracken