The home straight, the final furlong. The last mile. Here we are in the final run up to Christmas.

This is the week we usually undertake that last minute shopping spree. The gift for Aunt Mable, the stocking filler for Cousin Joe. From here on in its a dash to the finish. One more shopping weekend to go and the inevitable Christmas Eve rush. What have we seen so far?

The pre-Christmas spend-up is picking up pace, with spending through Paymark non-fuel merchants in the second week of December jumping 6.0% on the first seven days to be $1271 million.

Similarly, the annual growth rate increased. Underlying spending amongst the non-fuel merchants was 2.9% up on the same dates in 2017 (8-14th), showing an improvement on the slow 1.2% annual growth rate during the first week of December. Both annual growth rates remain below the January to November average of 5.0%.

The annual growth rates last week were highest in Whanganui (8.2%) and Palmerston North (8.1%), and lowest in Canterbury (1.6%) and Auckland/Northland (1.9%).

Monthly Graph 2018 Annual growth rateFigure 2: Paymark All Cards transaction data for merchant groupings (8-14th December 2018 versus 8-14th December 2017, and 1-7th December 2018 versus 1-7th December 2017)

Amongst merchant sectors, the annual growth rate picked up in the second week amongst Food and Liquor merchants (4.0%) and was steady amongst Food and beverages service providers (7.4%). Spending remained below year ago levels amongst Accommodation merchants and for the remainder of the Core Retail sector, albeit
both groupings improved on the first week of the month.

Monthly Graph 2018 Underlying SpendingFigure 3: Paymark All Cards transaction data for Core Retail merchants (3-9th November 2018 versus 3-9th November 2017, and so on) 

Spending is expected to jump again this week, both relative to last week and in terms of the annual growth rate. This was already evident in spending over Saturday and Sunday, where underlying spending amongst Core Retail merchants was up 5.5% and 4.6% respectively on the same days in 2017.