New Zealand's largest mall says the first two and last two hours after opening and before closing are the best time to hit the shops - if you want to avoid the crowds.

Judging from shopper activity last year, Sylvia Park expects its busiest shopping day this Christmas to be this week: Sunday, December 22, at lunchtime.

Helen Ronald, manager for the 71,0000sq m Auckland shopping centre, says first thing in the morning, around 4pm or additionally at 8pm are the best times to hit the shops for a stress-free last minute Christmas shop.

"For those trying to beat the Christmas rush, the first two hours after opening and the last two hours before closing are usually the quietest times," said Ronald.


Sylvia Park anticipates 1.8 million Eftpos transactions will take place in its centre over the Christmas trading period, with an expected 44,000 expected on Sunday - its busiest day shopping day of the season.

Paymark figures shows spending in the last seven days before Christmas rises to 50 per cent more than the average week spread across the rest of the year. Spending at department stores, recreational goods and liquor stores and clothing outlets double in the lead-up to Christmas.

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The pre-Christmas spend was off to a strong start earlier this month, thanks to Black Friday sparking huge spending volumes. Spending from November 13 until now has surpassed $6.4b, made through 136 million transactions, according to Paymark, which processes 75 per cent of the country's electronic card transactions.

Kiwis spent more in the seven days to December 14 than they did in the first seven days of the month. In the seven days until Saturday, $14.5 billion went through the Paymark network. About 90 per cent of this was spent in physical shops.

From November 13 to December 14, Aucklanders spent $2.6b, while Canterbury spent $700m, Wellington $611m, Waikato $480m, Bay of Plenty $448m and Otago $360m. Palmerston North spent $230m, a 9 per cent increase on the same period last year, while Hawke's Bay spent $186.4m, Southland $156m and Taranaki $125m.

Paymark says the pre-Christmas spend is up 5.3 per cent in the 42 days to December 14.

First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson expects Thursday, Friday and Saturday to be busy days for shops and malls this week as people shop last minute for gifts and the home ahead of the big day.


He recommends shoppers make a plan before they hit the shops to make the most to a trip to the mall at this time of the year.

"Have a look online to see which stores have the products you want, which will help save time and frustration, by mapping your most efficient shopping journey," Wilkinson said.

"Each year [the busiest days] are changing with first the adoption of Boxing Day sales, then the pre-Christmas sales and now the Black Friday weekend shifting the busy periods.

"Trends in larger employers shutting down earlier and encouraging leave is also changing when people can shop, so it's a dynamic environment which is hard even for retailers to anticipate."

Sylvia Park is open until 9pm today and tomorrow. From Wednesday, until December 23, it will be open until midnight.