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Debit card data points to bumper Boxing Day sales

28 Dec 2012 SYDNEY MORNING HERALD - GLENDA KWEK



BOXING DAY transactions rose by about 30 per cent from last year, bringing some Christmas joy for the retail sector, data from the National Australia Bank shows.

At the peak NAB on Boxing Day was processing more than 100 transaction per second. NAB registered more than 3.8 million ATM, Eftpos, debit and credit card transactions on the day, nearly a third higher than in 2011, when transactions hovered just below 3 million at a peak of about 80 a second.

A NAB spokesman said the year-on-year growth could be a reflection of the increasing use of cards over cash for shoppers.

The data came as the consumer discretionary sector on the stock market rose 1 per cent yesterday. David Jones shares were up almost 3 per cent from the close on Christmas Eve, Myer rose 2.9 per cent and Harvey Norman was up 1.6 per cent.

Shoppers were wielding their plastic at the highest volumes ever recorded by NAB on Christmas Eve, with a peak of 206.58 transactions per second. December 20 was the busiest day during the Christmas period, with a total of 7.7 million transactions processed at a peak rate of 181.76 per second.

Analysts said the strong transaction figures also indicated the increasing innovation in payments, which included the introduction of "tap and pay" cards this year, and a growth in mobile shopping in the lead-up to Christmas.

Ingrid Just, of consumer watchdog Choice, said shoppers were moving away from carrying cash, were using Eftpos more and were also purchasing more online using their cards.

"Bricks and mortar stores - some of the big department stores like Myer and David Jones - are really throwing a lot of money at their online business," Ms Just said.

"They were offering Boxing Day sales on Christmas Day in the evening [online], and really using that as a foot in the door.

"I don't think we've seen that before.

"We're seeing non-retail businesses, like airlines, starting to get into the Boxing Day sales through their online channels. The traditional door-busting sales have started to bleed into online in a serious way."

Eftpos chief executive, Bruce Mansfield, said his organisation was seeing a trend towards debit transactions and that was expected to continue through the holiday period.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has projected that a total of $14.8 billion would be spent in the post-Christmas trade from Boxing Day to mid-January.

ARA's executive director, Russell Zimmerman, said retailers focused on providing good customer service to encourage shoppers to keep spending in physical stores.

Mr Zimmerman, who spoke to retail staff working during the Boxing Day sales, said the positive feedback he received "showed how retail was engaging with the consumer and how they were really out there trying to get the dollars into the tills and engage with the consumer at the bricks-and-mortar level".