We're splashing cash for Christmas

By Brendan Manning

As the holiday season nears, consumers are opening their wallets - and the region's wines are on the shopping list.

Wairarapa Wine Centre administrator Karen Fairweather said the store had been "really busy" in recent weeks as people searched for Christmas presents.

It was not just presents people were after, either. Mixed cases of wine were also popular as people stocked up for summer parties.

"That's what people do at Christmas isn't it? Have bubbles and wine and things."

New figures released on Friday show retail spending was up slightly last month, both nationally and in Wairarapa.

Figures from Paymark - which processes 75 per cent of the country's electronic transactions - show a slight rise in spending during November.

Year-on-year spending is up 3.7 per cent in Wairarapa.

Nationally, figures are up 4.6 per cent, while spending at cafes and restaurants is up 9.3 per cent and liquor retailers enjoyed a 10 per cent surge.

Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston said the increase in pre-Christmas spending followed the same pattern as recent years.

"We have seen the usual lift in spending from mid-November and the last seven days of the month were up 10.4 per cent, as compared to the last seven days of October.

"While this shows an improvement on recent months, the increase can in part be attributed to November this year having one more Friday than November in 2011."

Despite the buoyant figures, some retailers were still finding it tough, Mr Whiston said.

"Based on historic figures, we expect the real rush is yet to come. Between 2007 and 2011, spending jumped an average of 27 per cent from November to December as Kiwis ramped up their card usage in anticipation of Christmas."

People are also spending more around the house - with a 10.4 per cent rise in purchases at hardware stores year-on-year.

Other sectors to experience a lift above the 4.6 per cent national average included automotive outlets (up 7.9 per cent) and clothing shops (up 6.5 per cent).

This was perhaps fuelled by those looking for the perfect Christmas party outfit, Mr Whiston said.

"It's great to see Kiwis getting into the Christmas spirit and spending across a diverse range of sectors.

"We hope to see retailers reaping the benefits in the coming weeks."

Waikato enjoyed the highest regional growth in spending between November 2011 and last month (up 6.5 per cent), followed by Canterbury (up 5.7 per cent), which has been leading the charge since June.

NZ Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said the figures were encouraging.

There was already good feedback from retailers, though this year would not be a "huge bonanza".

"Cautiously optimistic might be the way to put it.

"It's positive, but it's not the sort of stuff you're going to go out and dance naked in the street [over]," he said.


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