Retailers hoping for a good Christmas spend up have got some good news from electronic payment company Paymark, which says the value of transactions through its network last month rose 5.5 per cent - the fastest growth rate of any month this year.

Paymark, which processes 75 per cent of all electronic transactions, reported a 5.6 per cent in sales volume and value was up 5.5 per cent to $3.78 billion.

"If typical spending patterns continue, we may see a stronger Christmas than the last two years," the company said.

Paymark CEO, Simon Tong said that whilst the early indications were looking good, the Christmas 'scorecard' for 2010 would depend largely on the last-minute spending push that Kiwis are famous for.

"The pre-Christmas spend up has a long lead-time, starting in mid November," says Tong.

"It's early days yet, and spending is mixed across industries, but these are encouraging signs that the growth in spending over Christmas may finish stronger than the last couple of years," he adds.

The spending increase was seen across the economy with fewer sectors reporting declining annual sales and sectors such as automotive repairs (12 per cent annual growth), supermarkets ( up 10 per cent) and footwear (up 8 per cent) growing quickly in November.

These increases were, however, concentrated among those outlets with lower average transaction size, said Tong.

"Noticeably some of the big-ticket retailers like appliance, electronic and recreational goods stores that typically see a big jump in sales ahead of Christmas are amongst those sectors still posting year-on-year declines in November or only modest annual growth."

Debit card use was growing, said Tong, while credit card spending was only slightly above year-ago levels.

"This suggests that Kiwis are still exercising restraint when it comes to splashing out on more expensive items that might not fit under the Christmas tree," he said.

- NZ HERALD ONLINE