Kiwis spent a combined $282.4 million on Christmas shopping yesterday - the busiest shopping day of the year, so far.

December 21 broke records with card transactions surpassing 5.98 million, according to figures by eftpos provider Paymark.

Thursday was the first of the three busiest shopping days of the year that mark the pre-Christmas spending spree, but that record is expected to be short lived: today's transaction spend may be even larger.

Spending in appliance stores yesterday was up 32.8 per cent on last year; hardware stores were up 13.8 per cent, toy and game stores up 13.8 per cent and department stores up 13.5 per cent.

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Spending on fast food was also strong, up 13 per cent, and cafe and restaurant spending was up 8.2 per cent. Spending at clothing stores decreased 4 per cent and 2.9 per cent at watch and jewellery retailers.

The underlying annual growth rate over December is now at 7.6 per cent, above the 5.4 per cent average recorded for the first 11 months of the year.

Growth was highest in the regions, where spending in Marlborough increased 21.2 per cent, Gisborne was up 14. 9 per cent and Wairarapa up 13.7 per cent.

Growth was lowest in Auckland/Northland, Wellington and Canterbury.

Total spending through Paymark in the first 21 days of December totalled $4353m.