People feeling good about the economic recovery spent up on looking good and going out in December if figures from electronic payment processor Paymark are anything to go by.
Paymark processed transactions worth $4.3 billion in December, up 3.9 percent on last year. Excluding petrol the increase is 2.6 percent.
"Discretionary spending across our network was definitely a bit of a mixed bag - our figures show that spending on sporting and outdoor pursuits was lower than usual in December 2009, but the feel good sector -- cafes, jewellery and hair care were up," said Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston.
Jewellery shops experienced 9.3 percent growth, restaurants and cafes 8 percent and hairdressing and beauty salons experienced 7.5 percent growth.
On a regional basis, spending was up in each region, ranging from a slow 1.5 percent growth in Nelson to a relatively high growth of 7.1 percent in Gisborne.
Spending growth in the major centres of Auckland and Northland, Wellington and Canterbury tended to be near or below the national growth average.
"December was promising in that our figures point towards the fact that we have continued out of the 2008 and early 2009 recession but it's important to note that they also serve as a reminder of the tough economic conditions faced here and abroad," he said.
In terms of volume, Paymark processed 80.7 million transactions in December ,up 6.5 percent on the same month the previous year.
The data contrasts somewhat with the experience of discount retailer The Warehouse Group Ltd, which said yesterday that sales for nine weeks ended January 3 were flat with the same period last year.
"We had anticipated continued steady sales growth over Christmas but this didn't materialise. We believe that our sales are indicative of the broader non-food retail market overall," said group chief executive officer, Ian Morrice.
But Cameron Brewer, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association, said The Warehouse's poor December result was not a reflection of the overall state of retail across the country.
"It might have been a case of the Warehouse experiencing a flat Christmas because consumers were feeling more confident and so kept away from the low-cost retailers. Low-cost retailers generally do better than others in a recession. With New Zealand technically out of recession in the second half of last year, and confidence generally on the rise, it's no surprise The Warehouse's end-of-year trade was hit.