A shopping trolley of 15 items was $1,500 cheaper on Boxing Day - a saving of 26 per cent on Christmas prices - according to a Herald survey of a popular mall.

Some shops were standing-room only as thousands took to malls and shopping centres yesterday, with long waits for carparks and queues stretching 50m at some checkouts.

But those who turned up were rewarded with hundreds of dollars off items - although a Herald survey found some items at pre-Christmas prices, or even higher.

The prices of 15 items at shops throughout the Albany Westfield shopping centre were recorded yesterday and earlier on Christmas Eve.

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Overall, the basket of goods cost 26 per cent less on Boxing Day, dropping from $5,828 to $4,284.

One leather recliner was a whopping $1,100 cheaper and there was a saving of $300 on a 50-inch television.

However, more goods were the same price as before Christmas, even though many were discounted from the regular retail price.

One toaster was on sale, but still cost $12 more than the special December 24 price.

Shaun Pahalad was at the mall with his wife, Anisha, and their children Cejay, 7, and Nadia, 11.

He said overall the discounts were okay, however it was a "mixed bag".

"There were a couple of items we actually noticed were cheaper prior to Christmas."

Mr Pahalad said he and his wife had devised a system to cope with the crowds.

"We walk in the door, I stand in the queue and she gets what we want and move on. That's worked for us.

"It's just as bad outside. The only way we got a park is we asked a guy who was walking, 'Hey, where did you park?' ... and we drove around to his car."

K-Mart had a queue for its checkouts about 50m long.

Elsewhere, shop assistants prayed for Eftpos machines not to go down as customers positioned themselves for help as if at a crowded bar.

Despite the crowds, people were largely good-natured and politely moved for parents edging prams forward.

Transport Agency spokesman Anthony Frith said roads in Auckland were free-flowing except for those around shopping malls, in particular Sylvia Park, which was "extremely congested".

Westfield spokeswoman Deb McGhie said stores nationwide had been very busy. Centres had opened their doors before retailers, and eager shoppers had waited outside some stores.

"I know some jewellery stores today had some significant sales, and there were queues outside those."

Boxing Day madness as thousands of people do their shopping at St Lukes Mall. Photo / Dean Purcell
Boxing Day madness as thousands of people do their shopping at St Lukes Mall. Photo / Dean Purcell