The first week of December was busy for retailers but spending figures from Paymark show the annual growth rate was slower than expected.

Spending at retailers, excluding fuel merchants, rang in to the tune of $1.2 million last week - just 1.2 per cent higher nationwide in the first seven days of December recorded last year.

Paymark, which processes more than three-quarters of New Zealand's card transactions, believes the minimal spending increase was "a pause before another rush".

It believes Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending may have bought spending forward by a couple of weeks. Kiwis spent $442 million over the Black Friday weekend.


On the Friday alone, New Zealanders spent $69.7m at non-food retail shops, an increase of 54 per cent on a typical Friday, surpassing the $68m spent on Boxing Day last year.

Spending in the first week of December was the highest in Palmerston North last week, up 7.5 per cent on the same time a year earlier, followed by Southland, up 6.4 per cent.

In the Auckland/Northland region spending was up just 0.1 per cent on last year, and down 1 per cent in Wairarapa.

Darren Hopper, head of digital payments for Paymark, said Black Friday had impacted the traditional sales pattern in the lead-up to Christmas.

"Instead of the usual late Christmas rush building through the month, we've seen a burst of activity early in the period, Black Friday weekend, followed by a lull. We would expect to see that build up in the latter part of December as we get closer to Christmas Eve," Hopper said.

"Given Christmas Eve is a Monday we expect that weekend to be the busiest shopping period of the year, consistent with previous years where Christmas Eve falls on a Monday."

Christmas spending typically builds through the last two weeks of November and first week of December. It then ramps up in the last couple of weeks of the month ahead of Christmas.

Paymark predicts a surge in spending is yet to come.


"In the week ahead, we are likely to increase our buying at department stores, recreational goods shops, electrical shops and clothing stores by 10-25 per cent, only to step up even further in the last few days before Christmas," it said.

In the last week before Christmas, Paymark anticipates an 80-180 per cent increase in spending compared with an average week between January and October.

It expects spending at food and liquor retailers to lift between 60 and 70 per cent in the week ahead of Christmas.

Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson said unpredictable weather throughout the year had a massive influence on many spending categories.

A slowing in Auckland's house market would likely have affected the little spending growth in the Auckland/Northland region in the first week of December, he said.

"By contrast last December was very consistent, buoying DIY, fashion and some of the big appliance sales with consumers feeling good," he said.

"We're hoping for a later rally in terms of consumer activity [this year] as need and promotions drive footfall."