Choppy spending growth in lead-up to Christmas

Shopping-ChristmasCard spending in the lead-up to Christmas has been choppy, with a significant year-on-year spending increase on Black Friday offset by slower growth in the days after.

The data from payment provider Paymark shows underlying spending amongst non-fuel merchants was down 0.1 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms between October and November, while annual growth in November was up 5.2 per cent, below that of the previous three months, but still better than during the slower winter months.

Non-fuel spending on Black Friday was up 10.8 per cent on 2017, but annual growth rates slowed to an average 2.5 per cent over the following seven days. Annual growth in the first weekend of December averaged 1.8 per cent over the Saturday and Sunday, and spending was generally below year-ago levels in the sectors that experienced strong Black Friday activity.

While Paymark noted poor weather over the period may have kept shoppers away, the data suggests that 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,” Paymark said in a statement.

Paymark expects spending to reach its peak on Friday, December 21, this year, as it did in 2007 and 2012, the last two years when Christmas Day fell on a Tuesday. In both of those years, spending on December 21 was around 80 per cent more than the average daily spend, and spending on Christmas Eve was 60-70 per cent above average, making for a busy last few days.

Total spending growth in November was reduced by the lower petrol prices that occurred during the month, according to Paymark. Spending amongst fuel merchants was down 4 per cent on last year, dragging the annual total underlying growth rate to a low 4.4 per cent for November.

Annual growth was slowest in Canterbury (2.6 per cent) with, noticeably, Auckland/Northland (4.1 per cent) again below the national average. Spending growth was strongest in Wanganui (11.8 per cent), Gisborne (9.8 per cent), Palmerston North (9.5 per cent) and Marlborough (9.4 per cent).

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