Bay shoppers shelled out more than $300 million in Eftpos and credit card transactions last month and the region also posted the biggest annual spending growth in the country.

Paymark figures showed spending increased by 13.4 per cent compared to the year before, with $302 million ringing through retailers' tills in March.

Last month the Bay of Plenty region ranked fifth in terms of overall spend.

Auckland/Northland came in first with $1.927 billion followed by Canterbury, ($528 million) Wellington ($438 million) and Waikato $332 million.


However, Paymark chief marketing officer Tim McFarlane said the highest annual underlying spending growth was seen in the Bay of Plenty.

Mr McFarlane said the Easter effect was shown more clearly when comparing Paymark weekly data in March.

Spending through Paymark food service merchants in the Bay of Plenty was $1.5 million higher in the Easter week compared to the average for the previous three weeks, and $1 million higher among accommodation merchants.

The Phoenix restaurant duty manager Tamihana Sais-Cook said it has been a very good March with sales up about 15-20 per cent on March 2015.

"The Jazz Festival was part of that it but it's been pretty good since New Year and we're definitely up compared to where we were the previous year," he said.

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Ian New, owner of Kiwiana Gifts & Souvenirs, said: "It's been a good March for us, and we still have a lot of people, particularly travellers prepared to open their wallets.

"It will be an interesting to see what our April figures will be like, and once we hit May it does tends to slow down a bit."

Downtown Tauranga Kilt fashion store manager Monica Culley said March sales figures were good compared to previous months but February was better.

"We had our best February since the store opened seven years ago," she said

Ms Culley said April's trading figures were already well above April 2015, and also 2 per cent above the target set for the month.

Extending the Jazz Festival might be one way of encouraging more shoppers to hit the shops, she said.

Jane Debenham, Mount Mainstreet Association chairwoman and Paper Plus manager, said retailers had done "really well" due to a busy March, which was helped by Easter trading.

"The streets were definitely busier with lots of visitors and two cruise ships in port."

Papamoa Plaza manager David Hill said spending in March was up across the board.

The trend was not solely to do with two busy Easter trading days.

Some of the 10-15 per cent increase was due to the increased population and more visitors, not necessarily people spending more money, Mr Hill said.

"There was definitely a lot more people around last month."