Shoppers are arming themselves with Eftpos cards and flat shoes while retailers gear up for what's forecast to be the busiest shopping day of the year.

Just three day's out from Christmas, we are now officially in "spend mode", said Paymark's Paul Brislen.

He said we could see a new record of transactions per second set today as desperate shoppers flocked to stores for last-minute gifts.

Traffic recorded through electronic payments company Paymark had already hit the 160-170 transactions per second mark this week. Last year, transaction numbers peaked on Christmas Eve at 177 transactions per second.

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During the week of December 11th to 17th this year Paymark recorded $1.445 billion in transactions nationwide. This was up 5.8 per cent on the same week the year before.

Last year Kiwis spent almost $6b in electronic card transactions in December alone, up 6.6 per cent from the previous year.

Speaking to the Herald at Auckland's biggest mall on Thursday afternoon, the most common word shoppers used to describe their experience was "stressful".

Strewn with enough Christmas trees and baubles to put the South Pole to shame, Sylvia Park was heaving with shoppers clutching armfuls of bags.

Shop owners said stock had been flying off the shelves and workers were dealing with more and more frazzled customers as each day passed.

Armed with an impressively full-looking shopping trolley, Melissa McLean said she was aiming for a one-hit wonder.

"We've got one day to shop and we've got to get everything for the whole family. Usually I would do it online but I've left everything to the last minute so I've had to come into the shops."

McLean said she was looking forward to getting it over and done with, calling the process "expensive and stressful".

Walker and Hall store manager Naveen Kumar said it was an interesting time to be working, with plenty of new faces coming in to buy pieces to win over their beau.

"We don't see them the whole year but then they just walk in and walk around the shop with a photo of something, they're often like, 'That's what they want'."

The heat and the crowds were wearing down Aucklander Ane Pulu, who had headed to Sylvia on Thursday morning with her brother Vili.

She had hoped to beat the rush but hadn't. Now, she wished she had hit the beach instead of the shops.

"We've just started and it's pretty crazy. Crowded, heaps of sales," she said.

"After this we'll probably do ice-cream or probably just head to the beach."

Several retail workers agreed the sunshine was likely luring some punters outside, away from the mall's fluorescent lights and incessant drone of Christmas music.

Paper Plus floor manager Gail Woodward expected lots of people were stalling, with the assumption they could get it all done over the weekend.

"It's the weather, this absolutely amazing weather. It makes people want to linger outside, eat, and they think, 'Oh I've got plenty of time'."

Top on Woodward's own Christmas wish list was "a bit of peace and quiet".

Advice for last-minute Christmas shoppers

• Forget the extended warranty, the Consumer Guarantees Act means retailers have to repair or replace faulty goods or refund your money.
• It never hurts to ask. Leave your shyness at the door when you're hunting for a deal and see what the salesperson is prepared to offer. Ask if the item you're after will be on sale soon or what the store is prepared to throw in to sweeten the deal.
• Think carefully before signing up for a "buy now, pay later" deal.
• Add in an exchange card
• Avoid dud gift cards with stingy expiry dates.
• Top price doesn't guarantee top performance. Paying top dollar doesn't always mean the product is better than a cheaper one.