The key to taking the stress out of last-minute Christmas shopping is planning well and taking your time, an expert says.
Auckland hypnotherapist Grant Wilson, who counsels people with stress-related conditions, advised shoppers to plan before leaving the house.
"They need to pre-plan it and allow twice as much time as they normally would, so they can do it leisurely and know that they are going to have to battle in most shops to get what they want."
If you're taking small children, leave three times as much time, he said.
One good technique was to use relaxation methods, such as deep breathing, before stepping out of the house, Mr Wilson said.
Some shoppers at Auckland malls yesterday were leaving their run until the last minute, but most said the pre-Christmas crowds weren't too hectic.
Astrid Norman, from Birkenhead, was spending the day at Westfield Albany raising money for her daughter's touch rugby team - and had yet to do any Christmas shopping.
"I think every year I'll be really organised and all through the year I'll buy a little bit here and there, and it never happens," she said.
She planned to hit the mall again today and get everything in one trip.
At Westfield St Lukes, Georgie Fruean said she'd been shopping every day for the past three or four days, and still had more to do. "It's all been hectic; parking, getting through all the queues to actually buy stuff," she said.
But at Sylvia Park, Berris Anderson was relaxing with a magazine while waiting for a bus to go home, her shopping finished.
"I'd already done the majority, so it was the bits and pieces today, like table decorations."
She said she chips away at her Christmas shopping during the year.
Foodstuffs chief executive Steve Anderson said last year nearly 10,000 people left their food shop until after 9pm on Christmas Eve.
Comparing New World supermarket sales for December 23 and 24, 2012 with the same dates in November showed beer sales doubled and wine sales tripled in the two days before Christmas.
Pavlova sales increased 14-fold.
Mr Anderson said he encouraged those doing a last-minute shop to have a good list, and leave plenty of time. "It can be very frustrating to get home to find you have forgotten the all-essential cream for the pavlova."
Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said the number of customers was expected to double on Christmas Eve over a normal day.
She said Kiwis would be celebrating Christmas with 135,000 pavlovas and Countdown's bakeries would make 50,000 fruit cakes and 58,000 trifle sponges this month.
Top tips for stress-free last-minute Christmas shopping
• Research what you're going to buy online and call ahead to make sure the store has some in stock.
• Leave the kids at home with a babysitter.
• Plan the trip in advance to reduce travel time, beat traffic and wrangle a parking space.
• Download a Christmas shopping app to help you manage all your to-do lists.
• If you're too overloaded, delegate tasks to other family members.