New Zealanders are spending nearly five percent more in the lead-up to Christmas than they did last year, with spending on home improvement and hospitality leading the way.
Paymark, which processes about 75 percent of all electronic transactions in New Zealand, says spending in the 21 days ending December 20 rose by 4.7 percent on the same period last year to more than $3.28 billion.
The biggest boost came in the home improvement sector. Spending was up 20.6 percent on floor covering and furniture, up 10.1 percent at garden stores, up 10.3 percent at hardware and building supplies stores and up 9.5 percent at domestic appliance and whiteware stores.
People were also splashing out more on food and drink, with spending up 11.5 percent at liquor outlets, up 7.3 percent at restaurants, bars and cafes, and up 6.5 percent at food takeaway stores.
However, more people were remaining at home than last year, with spending down 1.3 percent on accommodation, down 2.6 percent on sporting and camping, and down 7.8 percent on travel and transport, though automotive spending excluding fuel was up 7.6 percent.
"It's heartening to see the annual year-on-year growth rate building through December and climbing above the average for the year which was around three per cent," Paymark chief executive Simon Tong said.
He said spending was up 5.8 percent in the past seven days on the same period last year, and the company on Thursday broke four million transactions for the sixth time in its history.
Canterbury led the way in percentage terms with a 6.4 percent increase on the same period last year, while Auckland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay and Wairarapa had increases over five percent.
The increases were much lower on the West Coast and Southland, where they were below two percent.