Tauranga shopping centres appear to be reaping the benefits of an unexpected legacy of Covid-19, as retailers experience a bumper Boxing Day and record sales from Kiwis unable to travel overseas.
At Papamoa Plaza, centre manager David Hill said: "It was our busiest Boxing Day ever".
"It was steady all day with moments and times of utter franticness. It was brilliant. It was just what everyone was working towards this year."
Hill said Covid-19 had created uncertainty and a bit of gloom at the time of lockdown but local retailers and community organisations had really "stepped up" to turn the negative into a positive and would likely end the year on a high.
Hill said the plaza experienced the biggest redemption of gift cards on Boxing Day and some stores such as Stirling Sports were "just nuts" with people cashing them in.
Christmas Eve and Boxing Day were traditionally among the busiest days of the year at the plaza, Hill said.
"We were expecting to be busy but not as busy as we were. It has taken over from the 24th (as being the busiest day of the year)."
Bayfair Shopping Centre manager Steve Ellingford said Saturday appeared to be on par with last year's Boxing Day. There were plenty of people and spending but "it didn't feel manic".
Despite this, the shopping centre reached a record in the number of gift card sales, many of which were bought before Christmas and redeemed on Boxing Day by people taking advantage of Boxing Day sales, Ellingford said.
Bayfair has experienced strong and consistent sales "since we came out of lockdown, it's quite surprising", Ellingford said.
"It has been a great period for retailers coming out of Covid. We had a great November with Black Friday. Usually, it would slow down for a bit before Christmas but it didn't really slow down at all, right up to the day just prior to Christmas and then Boxing Day. I think that's a great place to be in."
He was now anticipating "robust figures" from December.
Tauranga Crossing centre manager Andrew Wadsworth said it was also busy with people redeeming gift cards.
Feedback from Crossing retailers was that they enjoyed the Christmas rush and shoppers were there with specific purchases in mind and in good spirits, Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth said the Crossing's relative newness offered an appeal for visitors who might not have experienced the mall before.
"With overseas holidays out of the question, Kiwis are flocking to places like the Bay and treating themselves to some retail therapy."
Downtown Tauranga spokeswoman Sally Cooke said she understood Saturday "was a bit of a record day for retailers".
"We hope our shops really benefited from it."
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said, from what he had heard, Boxing Day had been steady and busy for most retailers.
"I think that's a continuation of a trend we've seen with things like the Black Friday sales being strong and people being keen to get out there and shop," he said.
"One of the key things going on is New Zealanders can't travel anywhere overseas at the moment so we're staying at home. At the same time, we have money to spend which we may have otherwise spent on a holiday and we're feeling a little bit wealthier because house prices have gone up and interest rates are relatively low.
"All of that is contributing to really strong retail feedback."
Harford said Boxing Day was usually the second or third busiest day for retailers throughout the country.
"It kind of jockeys for position with Black Friday, so it will be right up there, and Christmas Eve is normally the busiest day of the year."
According to Paymark, as of 2pm on Christmas Eve Kiwi consumers had already spent more than $166 million.
At 12.30pm, there was a peak of 204 transactions per second. The previous record was 188 transactions per second (the daily average is usually about 60 transactions per second).
Paymark chief executive Maxine Elliott said this was a new record for the number of transactions per second the Paymark network has ever processed.
"Christmas Eve always gives the network a good workout and we work hard to ensure the retail network is fully operational throughout the busiest shopping period of the year."