The first big chill of winter is here and with the cold snap has come a flurry of sales as cold Kiwis stock up on heaters, electric blankets and hot-water bottles.

A polar blast hit the country late last week, sending the country scrambling to keep the cold at bay.

Cold air swept up from the Antarctic last Thursday causing temperatures to plummet, and this week brought snow, hail, icy winds and frosty mornings around the country.

It was a rude awakening after many were enjoying the warmest May on record. Temperatures as low as 3C in Auckland were are predicted to hang around and retailers have seen sharp spikes in winter sales.

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Sales of winter clothing, heaters and electric blankets have spiked in the last week as an unexpectedly cold snap hit. Photo / 123rf
Sales of winter clothing, heaters and electric blankets have spiked in the last week as an unexpectedly cold snap hit. Photo / 123rf

Last week 115,000 searches for heaters were made on online auction site Trade Me, up 50 per cent from the same time last month and making up nearly half of all searches for heaters in May.

"We've seen a staggering number of searches for heaters, merino clothing and electric blankets," said Trade Me spokeswoman Millie Silvester.

Searches for electric blankets hit nearly 10,000 in the past week (up 27 per cent on the same time last year), 41,000 for dehumidifiers and 51,000 people were scoping out merino clothing according to data provided to the Herald.

At the Warehouse trends were the same.

Merchandise manager Jenny Epke said the unexpectedly cold blast has seen winter trading surge in the past week.

Electric blankets sales rose 132 per cent - and stores in the South Island sold the highest numbers.

"'Heaters' was the top searched term on thewarehouse.co.nz and store sales of electric heaters were up 126 per cent," Epke said.

Sales of kids' puffer jackets doubled and umbrella sales rose 72 per cent.

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Men's and women's merino knitwear sales were up 39 per cent on the same time last year.

Epke said she had also noticed an increase in sales of DVDs, toys, blankets and cushions, suggesting households were snuggling up with home entertainment for cold nights.

Sales for heaters, fire lighters, hot-water bottles, blankets, thermal socks, slippers and hosiery had doubled in the last 10 days, said Countdown merchandise manager Steve Mills.

"As we get shorter days and much colder nights, we all want to stay home, keep warm and we start to crave comfort food.

"We've seen more Kiwis grabbing roasts for dinner, slow-cooked meats, winter vegetables and lots of soups."

Trade Me has suggested some quirky listings which could help the winning bidder keep warm this winter:

USB-chargeable Unicorn slippers available to bid on on Trade Me. Photo / Trade Me
USB-chargeable Unicorn slippers available to bid on on Trade Me. Photo / Trade Me

• A USB cup warmer to plug into your computer, keeping your cup of tea warmer for longer.
Unicorn heated slippers which heat up when charged at a USB port.
• A heated throw rug, for those who feel too fancy for an ordinary electric blanket.
Toe warmers for sticking to each individual toe, warming them for up to five hours.