The early days of the Christmas spending spree have been choppy. Underlying Paymark spending amongst non-fuel merchants was down 0.1% in seasonally adjusted terms between October and November - in spite of strong spending on Black Friday.

The annual growth in underlying spending amongst these merchants was 5.2% in November, a growth rate below that experienced in the previous three months but still better than during the slow winter months.

Within the month, Paymark daily figures show that Black Friday was a busy day, with non-fuel spending up 10.8% on the previous year, but annual growth rates slowed to an average 2.5% over the following 7 days.

Since then, annual growth in the first weekend of December was also slow, averaging 1.8% over the Saturday and Sunday. Spending was generally below year ago levels over the weekend amongst the sectors which experienced strong Black Friday spending.

Combining spending of the last three weeks ending Sunday 2 December, including Black Friday, shows non-fuel underlying spending up a slow 3.9% on the same period last year. There has been some poor weather over this period that would have kept shoppers away but the statistic does imply Black Friday sales affected spending on surrounding days. Whatever the reason, it marks a slow start to the busy Christmas spending period for many merchants.

Spending generally builds steadily now from week to week, to reach a frenzy in the last few days before Christmas. This year Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday, as it did in 2007 and 2012. In both these earlier years the peak day for Paymark was the Friday before Christmas Day, with spending on the day around 80% more than the average daily spend during each year. However spending was still 60-70% above average on Xmas Eve in both years, making for a busy last few days.

Returning to the monthly figures for November, total spending growth through Paymark was reduced by the lower petrol prices that occurred during the month. Spending amongst fuel merchants was down 4.0% on last year, dragging the annual total underlying growth rate to a low 4.4% for November. Annual growth was slowest in Canterbury (2.6%) with, noticeably, Auckland/Northland (4.1%) again below the national average. Spending growth was strongest in Whanganui (+11.8%), Gisborne (9.8%), Palmerston North (9.5%) and Marlborough (9.4%).