Rotorua retailers are reporting strong sales through the Christmas period, with one local pet store owner enjoying a massive 25 per cent lift on 2011.
Figures released by Paymark, which processes about 75 per cent of New Zealand's electronic card transactions, show Bay of Plenty residents spent $313.2 million last month _ 1.6 per cent more than during December 2011.
Wonderworld pet centre owner Ardie Drummond said his Christmas trade was up 25 per cent on the previous year, and strong trade had continued into this year.
"It's been quite a good year actually [last year] and this year, so far so good.''
Consumers were buying an assort ment of items from the store ranging from fish tanks, to dog products, to rabbit hutches.
Mr Drummond didn't expect trade to drop off either, as January, February and March were busy with school holidays and people installing outdoor pools in the summer months.
The most popular pets this year were rabbits and fish, he said.
Nationally, year-on-year spending increases during December were highest at appliance stores (up 10.3 per cent) and hardware stores (up 9.2 per cent).
Pet stores also enjoyed a 7.5 per cent surge in activity, with families welcoming new pets for Christmas, or buying treats for existing furry friends.
The festive spirit was evident in a 7.1 per cent spending jump at cafes and restaurants, an 8 per cent jump at liquor retailers and a 6.3 per cent rise at department stores.
NZ Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said December was in line with retailers' expectations.
"Obviously retailers get reasonably optimistic ... you think that maybe this year will be better than expectations.''
While retailers had passed the annual peak, the end of January brought with it summer season sales for clothing retailers and back-to-school trade.
"So there's still quite a few things that people can lock promotions around and generate a bit of excitement around.''
Mr Albertson said while retailers were not predicting 2013 to be an easy year, there were signs the market was improving.
Spending in December was up for the third month in a row, but did not post a significant jump. Paymark's seasonally adjusted total spending rose 0.5 per cent from November to December.
Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston said despite the pre-Christmas splurge, the December spending increase remained below average, at 2.3 per cent year-on-year. When adjusted for seasonal fluctuations it was a more positive 4.3 per cent.
"These annual growth rates remain below those recorded before 2008, which is indicative of the slower economic growth since the global financial crisis.
"The fact that there were five Sundays and Mondays during December _ typically slower days of the week _ compared with only four in 2011 affects the raw year-on-year comparison and sometimes doesn't tell the full story.''
While it was still tough going for some retailers, the seasonally adjusted numbers reflected an encouraging finish to 2012 _ which included a 13.4 per cent lift on Boxing Day sales for retailers.
In total, 932 million transactions were processed through Paymark during 2012, totalling $46.5 billion. The average transaction value of $49.92 was up 0.2 per cent on the previous year.
December spend by the numbers
2012: 88.76 million transactions nationwide, $4.72 billion spent (2.3 per cent year-on-year increase).
5.95 million transactions in Bay ofPlenty, $313.2 million spent (1.6 per cent year-on-year increase)
2011: 85.68 million transactions nationwide, $4.62 billion spent. 5.78 million transactions in Bay of Plenty, $308.2 million spent