Card spending on rise in lead-up to Xmas

Kiwis hitting cafes, restaurants and liquor stores in the lead-up to Christmas helped lift the country's electronic spend last month, according to latest figures.

Credit and debit card spending through the Paymark electronic network, which processes about 75 per cent of all transactions in New Zealand, rose 1 per cent in November compared to the previous month.

Kiwis' total spending was 4.6 per cent higher in terms of annual growth compared to November 2011.

Figures suggest the party season is getting underway, with spending jumping annually at cafes and restaurants by 9.3 per cent and liquor retailers by 10 per cent.

This sharp increase could in part be attributed to November 2012 having one more Friday than November last year, said Paymark's head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston.

But the increase in pre-Christmas spending was following the same patterns seen in recent years, he said.

"Looking at the past five years, this increase is in line with the average November spending trends, however despite the increase we are aware that for many retailers it is still tough going.

"Based on historic figures, we expect the real rush is yet to come."

The last seven days of November were 10.4 per cent higher than the last seven days of October.

"It's great to see Kiwis getting into the Christmas spirit and spending across a diverse range of sectors; we hope to see retailers reaping the benefits in the coming weeks," Whiston said.

Figures from 2007 to 2011 show that spending tends to jump an average 27 per cent from November to December.

New Zealanders continued to spend on housing-related items last month, with hardware stores seeing 10.4 per cent annual growth.

Other sectors to experience growth above the 4.6 per cent national average included automotive outlets (7.9 per cent) and clothing shops (6.5 per cent).

Whistson suggested the latter increase was a result of people looking for the perfect outfit for their workplace Christmas celebration.

The highest regional growth in annual spending was in the Waikato, up 6.5 per cent.

Canterbury was next with 5.7 per cent growth and Auckland/Northland saw a 5.2 per cent lift in electronic spending.

Across the country last month, the total number of card transactions was 5.1 per cent higher than a year ago.

Debit card usage was up 5.2, increasing faster than credit card usage (4.9 per cent) for the second month in a row.

- Ben Chapman-Smith of nzherald.co.nz

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