Consumer spending in Whanganui is booming as the holiday season gets underway.
According to new figures from economic development agency Whanganui and Partners, consumer spending across the district for the week ending December 12 was up 6.9 per cent on the same week last year.
But while overall spending is up, consumers are choosing to spend their money at places other than hospitality venues, with spending in that sector down about 18.5 per cent on the same week as last year.
On the streets of Whanganui, the jump in Christmas retail spending is evident, with Victoria Ave busy with shoppers on Monday.
One of the businesses seeing a steady stream of foot traffic was women's fashion store Just Looking, with director Mel Forrest saying the business is the busiest it has been in months.
"We're easily trading the same as we were this time last year, likely even above it. We've got plenty of foot traffic and lots of new stock, people are loving it."
Forrest said the last few weeks had been particularly busy for the store, but she didn't necessarily put all of that down to the festive season.
"There's a lot more people getting out and about and supporting local. Since the first lockdown, there's been a huge push towards shopping local. People are coming into town instead of going online."
Also benefitting from the festive season are accommodation and tourism providers, gearing up for the summer holidays.
One of those, Diane Taylor of Kai Iwi Beach Holiday Park, says business is better than what it was this time last year, with travellers set to have very little luck finding a spare site at her campground this summer.
"We're fully booked out - we're pretty busy from the 23rd, then we've got the usual mass exodus at the start of January, but we've even got some weddings after that," Taylor said.
Taylor said those booking a spot at the holiday park weren't just locals, with a number of travellers coming from places like Wellington and Taranaki for a holiday in the region.
But while overall spending in the Whanganui district is up, hospitality is not receiving quite the same treatment, with the sector's total take down about 18.5 per cent on the same week as last year.
According to Hospitality New Zealand's lower North Island general manager Adam Parker, some hospitality businesses across Whanganui are struggling as we head into Christmas.
"Businesses are trading less now than what they were under the alert level system - there are just some people who won't show their vaccination passport, for example," Parker explained, pointing to difficulties with the new traffic light system.
"The fact is, it's now more difficult for businesses to operate. There is much more compliance involved, with a variety of different rules."
Under the new system, businesses are now required to ensure people both scan in, and have their vaccine passes sighted. In red, table service is also mandatory, and patrons must be seated.
"Considering businesses have lost staff off the back of the mandate, this is another layer of compliance that is making it really difficult for a lot of people I'm talking to."
"Heading into Christmas, the biggest feeling is one of uncertainty. Some are struggling, some are doing OK and some are at serious risk. It's unpredictable."
And while some businesses have lost staff due to new rules, others are simply having difficulty attracting them in the first place, with a tight labour market and a shrinking migrant workforce wreaking havoc on some businesses, Parker said.
At Whanganui's Maria Lane Eatery and Bar, co-owner Bryce Mason said the business was currently attempting to recruit two chefs, which is proving a hard task.
"Our biggest issue is recruitment, mainly chefs. One of our chefs is heading overseas and one is heading back to Wellington. I've basically got no chefs from February onwards."
On business more broadly, Mason said it has been an odd December getting to grips with the new system.
"[Business] is not as strong as it has been, and some of that is down to the traffic light system. For example, we've had some work parties booked but one or two of the staff have been unvaccinated, so they've pulled out of the booking.
"The market has been soft, but there are times we're busy. It's hard to get a good read of it, really."
Manjot Singh, the owner of Victoria Ave's La Quattro restaurant, said business in the month of December would typically be up by about 40 per cent on the months prior.
That simply hasn't happened this month, and the business is not doing as well as it usually does.
"This new system has been difficult _ some people just won't come in. We are down, but we're hoping for a good summer."