Big festive spend-up for Bay

Hawke's Bay residents spent December reaching deep into their wallets, spending $3.5 million more during the month than in 2011.

Figures released by Paymark, which processes about 75 per cent of New Zealand's electronic card transactions, show Hawke's Bay residents spent 2.7 per cent more over the 2012 Christmas period than the previous year - splurging $134.6 million last month.

Nationally, year-on-year spending increases during December were highest at appliance stores (up 10.3 per cent) and hardware stores (up 9.2 per cent).

Pet stores also enjoyed a 7.5 per cent surge in activity, with families welcoming new pets for Christmas, or buying treats for existing furry friends.

The manager of Hastings' Pet Essentials said Christmas was steady, but no busier than expected. "We were steady for the whole month, I think people were just a little bit more prepared this year, because we were busy the week prior to Christmas rather than [on] Christmas Eve."

Products were more popular than pets this summer, with pet food and accessories taking precedence over puppies, she said.

Not a single puppy had been sold this Christmas, as holidaying families avoided burdening themselves before heading away.

But steady trade was expected to continue over the next two months.

Nationally, the festive spirit was evident in a 7.1 per cent spending jump at cafes and restaurants, an 8 per cent jump at liquor retailers and a 6.3 per cent rise at department stores.

NZ Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said December was in line with retailers' expectations.

"Obviously retailers get reasonably optimistic ... you think that maybe this year will be better than expectations."

While retailers had passed the annual peak, the end of January brought with it summer season sales for clothing retailers and back-to-school trade.

"So there's still quite a few things that people can lock promotions around and generate a bit of excitement around."

Mr Albertson said while retailers were not predicting 2013 to be an easy year, there were signs the market was improving.

Spending in December was up for the third month in a row, but did not post a significant jump. Paymark's seasonally adjusted total spend rose 0.5 per cent from November to December.

Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston said despite the pre-Christmas splurge, the December spending increase remained below average, at 2.3 per cent year-on-year.

However, when adjusted for seasonal fluctuations it was a more positive 4.3 per cent.

"These annual growth rates remain below those recorded before 2008, which is indicative of the slower economic growth since the global financial crisis. The fact that there were five Sundays and Mondays during December - typically slower days of the week - compared with only four in 2011 affects the raw year-on-year comparison and sometimes doesn't tell the full story."

In total, 932 million transactions were processed through Paymark during 2012, totaling $46.5 billion. The average transaction value of $49.92 was up 0.2 per cent on the previous year.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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