Eftpos transactions reached record highs today as Kiwi shoppers, filled with "Christmas spirit'', packed out stores around the country.

Just-released Paymark figures show the peak transaction rate for the year - 148 per second, recorded at 12.24pm today - is the highest rate ever and was a significant rise from last year's peak of 132 transactions per second.

Paymark, which processes about 75 per cent of all electronic transactions in New Zealand, also said spending was up 7.1 per cent annually for December 22 and 23.

Sales numbers had been "massive'' all morning today, said Head of Sales and Marketing Paul Whiston.


A lift in transactions was expected today, but "not quite to that magnitude'', he said.

"In the one hour between 12pm and 1pm we processed just on 490,000 transactions ...

"That's 50,000 more than we've ever seen on the network in a one-hour period ever.''

Shoppers were happy to spend, he said.

"It's the Christmas spirit.

"If you add that to the recent reports around consumer confidence, [and] the economy returning to a healthier state, I think that manifests itself in people celebrating and purchasing gifts.''

Transactions were expected to tail off quickly this afternoon, he said.

The final days of spending before Christmas had continued the positive month of growth so far.

"Yesterday was recorded as the second highest spending day ever, with $235 million through the tills, and was also 42.8 per cent up on the previous Monday.''

December 23 was also a particularly strong day for a number of sectors including sporting and camping equipment outlets, up 109.9 per cent compared to the same day last week, and clothing and jewellery stores, up 78.6 per cent week-on-week.

"Kiwis were also out gathering all the last-minute essentials for their Christmas lunch, with food retailing up 81.8 per cent yesterday on the same day last week,'' said Whiston.

"There's always that last-minute rush and it's certainly come through today.''

Christmas shoppers crowd the escalators at Westfield St Lukes yesterday. Photo / Chris Gorman
Christmas shoppers crowd the escalators at Westfield St Lukes yesterday. Photo / Chris Gorman

Boxing Day transactions would depend on the weather.

"If the weather's really nice, people hit the beach. If it's a bit inclement sometimes they go to the mall and do their Boxing Day post-Christmas purchases then.''

Nelson and Marlborough recorded the biggest regional rises in spending for December 22 and 23, at 11.4 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively.