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A $6.4 million increase in Christmas spending this year suggests the Otago economy may be on its way out of the recession.
Paymark figures released on Christmas Eve showed Otago residents spent $176.5 million in the region for the 21 days ending December 23, up from $170.2 million (3.7%) for the corresponding time last year.
Across the country, spending was up 3.4% ($112.3 million) year-on-year for the 21 days ending December 23.
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie believed the figures signalled the economy was rejuvenating.
''It reflects the optimism and the mood of the customers who are out there spending again.
''It's a positive trend.
''My only hope is that [the increase] was not because people were spending beyond their means like they did a couple of years ago.''
Paymark chief executive Simon Tong said the steady growth demonstrated New Zealanders had been organised with their shopping this year.
Figures showed more than $1.3 billion went through New Zealand tills in the week before Christmas. In the two days before Christmas, the spending growth rate decelerated slightly to become more in line with the average growth rate over the past 11 months, he said.
''This suggests that while spending is still up annually, many were avoiding taking the last-minute shopping approach in the final days before Christmas.''
Paymark, which processes about 75% of all electronic transactions in New Zealand, also saw particularly strong year-on-year growth in Canterbury and Gisborne in the 21 days ending December 23, up 6.6% and 4.3% respectively.
''Canterbury has really steam- ed ahead of the other regions in terms of spending growth in the lead-up to Christmas.''
Southland did not fare so well, with a $200,000 (-0.3%) drop in spending in the same timeframe.