The Christmas shopping spree is heating up with spending excluding fuel jumping to $1.27 billion in the second week of December, up 6 percent compared with the first week.

That figure is also 2.9 percent higher than in the same week last year, according to Paymark, which processes more than 75 percent of New Zealand card transactions.

“The home straight, the final furlong, the last mile. Here we are in the final run-up to Christmas,” Paymark says.

However, the spend-up is highly variable across the country. The biggest increase was by people in Whanganui, up 8.2 percent, and Palmerston North, up 8.1 percent; the tightwads were those in Canterbury, up 1.6 percent, and Auckland, up 1.9 percent.

“This is the week we usually undertake that last-minute shopping spree. The gift for Aunt Mable, the stocking filler for Cousin Joe,” Paymark says.

“From here on in, it’s a dash to the finish. One more shopping weekend to go and the inevitable Christmas Eve rush.”

The biggest increase in spending was in cafes, bars and restaurants, up 7.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Sales through grocers and supermarkets rose 4 percent.

Sales did improve through other retail stores but are still slightly lagging last year’s spending levels.

“Spending is expected to jump again this week, both relative to last week and in terms of the annual growth rate,” Paymark says.

“This was already evident in spending over Saturday and Sunday where underlying spending amongst core retail merchants was up 5.5 percent and 4.6 percent respectively on the same days in 2017.”

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