BOXING Day transactions rose by about 30 per cent from last year, bringing some Christmas joy for the embattled retail sector, according to data from National Australia Bank.
At the peak, NAB was processing more than 100 transactions a second. It registered more than 3.8 million ATM, eftpos, debit and credit card transactions on Boxing Day, nearly a third higher than last year, when transactions hovered just below 3 million and at a peak rate 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 sharemarket rose 1 per cent on Thursday. 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 a 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 a 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.
"Additionally, 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."
At the same time, eftpos chief executive Bruce Mansfield said his organisation was seeing a trend towards debit transactions and that was expected to continue during the holiday period.
The Australian Retailers Association has projected that a total of $14.8 billion would be spent in the post-Christmas trade from Boxing Day to mid-January.
New South Wales shoppers were forecast to spend $4.5 billion, with Victorians spending about $3.7 billion and Queenslanders about $3 billion.