With Christmas fast approaching, Northland consumers are heading to the hardware store in search of the perfect gift.
Figures from Paymark - which processes 75 per cent of the country's electronic transactions - show a slight rise in spending nationwide during November.
Year-on-year spending is up 4.6 per cent, and up 1 per cent from October. Purchases at hardware stores, however, are up significantly - with a 10.4 per cent year-on-year increase.
A Bunnings Kaikohe manager said sales last month were similar to 2011, if not slightly down. However, any dropoff in last month's sales would be recaptured in the Christmas rush.
The store was now "inundated" with people searching for Christmas presents, he said. "What we try and do is gear up for that a month earlier and it goes a little berserk about this time."
Christmas trees, lights and barbecues were the biggest movers. Where the wives were coming in to "buy hubby something", the presents were more building-related, he said.
"From a pencil to a power tool. Anything to do with the building industry."
Spending at cafes and restaurants is up 9.3 per cent and liquor retailers enjoyed a 10 per cent surge.
Paymark spokesman Paul Whiston said the increase in pre-Christmas spending followed the same pattern of recent years.
"We have seen the usual lift in spending from mid-November and the last seven days of the month were up 10.4 per cent as compared to the last seven days of October.
"While this shows an improvement on recent months, the increase can in part be attributed to November this year having one more Friday than November in 2011."
Despite the buoyant figures, some retailers were still finding it tough, Mr Whiston said.
"Based on historic figures, we expect the real rush is yet to come. Between 2007 and 2011 spending jumped an average of 27 per cent from November to December as Kiwis ramped up their card usage in anticipation of Christmas."
Other sectors to experience a lift above the 4.6 per cent national average included automotive outlets (up 7.9 per cent) and clothing shops (up 6.5 per cent).
"It's great to see Kiwis getting into the Christmas spirit and spending across a diverse range of sectors. We hope to see retailers reaping the benefits in the coming weeks."
Waikato enjoyed the highest regional growth in spending between November 2011 and last month (up 6.5 per cent), followed by Canterbury (up 5.7 per cent) which has been leading the charge since June.
NZ Retailers Association chief executive John Albertson said the figures were encouraging. There was already good feedback from retailers, though this year would not be a "huge bonanza".
"Cautiously optimistic might be the way to put it. It's positive, but it's not the sort of stuff you're going to go out and dance naked in the street [over]."
- 2011: 30.73m transactions, $1.561b spent.
- 2012: 32.31m transactions (5.1 per cent increase), $1.643b spent (5.2 per cent increase).
- 2011: 76.87m transactions, $3.902b.
- 2012: 80.8m transactions (5.1 per cent increase), $4.082b spent (up 4.6 per cent).