Christmas spending is ramping up in Hawke's Bay with the number of electronic card transactions and value of spending both showing big increases on the same period last year.
The number of electronic card transactions for November increased 8 per cent in the Bay to 2.46 million compared to November 2012, according to the latest Paymark figures. The value of spending also jumped - up 7 per cent to $118.4 million.
Meanwhile, local shoppers splurged $29.8 million in the first seven days of December - up 6 per cent year-on-year - as they sought Christmas bargains.
Paper Plus Taradale manager Toni Reid said the store had become busy with Christmas shoppers earlier this year and spending was "definitely up" on a year ago.
"It's nothing that's going to blow us out of the water but any increase is a positive thing."
Popular products included Annabel Langbein's new bookazine, A Free Range Life, Murray Ball's cartoon book Luv from Dog and Eleanor Catton's Man Booker prize-winner The Luminaries.
For children, Minnie Mouse tea sets and the latest instalment of Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Hard Luck - were top sellers.
Mrs Reid said she felt positive about the upward trend continuing towards Christmas.
Suzelle Lingerie owner Coralie White noticed shoppers were starting to feel the Christmas spirit.
"It is starting to get a bit Christmassy for us and it is certainly a little bit earlier than usual and better than normal in terms of sales.
"A lot of people are coming in and looking around for gifts and coming back and buying, and it has picked up over the past week when usually the last two weeks before Christmas are when it gets really busy."
The lingerie store owner said of her three outlets in Hawke's Bay, Taradale and Hastings had the strongest showing during the early Christmas rush.
The third store is located in Napier.
Heards Manufacturing Jewellers owner Irena Funnell said the increase in sales "picked up hugely" last week.
"We usually don't see the big spenders until the last week before Christmas but most of our clients have already done their Christmas shopping."
She said this year watches were proving to be a popular choice among shoppers.
The Hastings jewellers are also staying open until 8pm on Thursday for the Hastings City Night Market, helping business.
Nationally, spending surged 8.6 per cent for the first week of December on the same time last year, as people stocked up on food and liquor. Paymark head of customer relations Mark Spicer said the increase in spending showed that momentum was building towards the final Christmas countdown.
"Anecdotal commentary from retailers suggests the figures are supported and Kiwis are beginning to get out and about to collect their Christmas supplies. "However, there is still a way to go before the big Christmas rush sets in."
Based on last year's activity, consumer spending would shift to department stores and furniture/appliance stores in the coming weeks, he said.
During November, Paymark, which processes about three quarters of all electronic transactions in New Zealand, saw a number of sectors continue to perform well, including hardware stores, up 15 per cent year-on-year, camping stores (13.4 per cent), cafes and restaurants (11.4 per cent), and takeaways (9.7 per cent). Spending also increased in recent months at furniture stores (15 per cent), liquor outlets (12.6 per cent), footwear stores (10.4 per cent), and accommodation providers (9 per cent).
"It appears the warmer weather is motivating people to get their outdoor supplies in order or accommodation booked, as they make plans to head away over the summer months," Mr Spicer said.
All regions recorded positive growth during November, with annual growth strongest in Marlborough at 10.1 per cent.
Nationwide, the volume of electronic card transactions last month was 7 per cent higher than a year ago, with credit card usage up 13.9 per cent and debit card usage up 4.9 per cent.