The Good Friday effect: Two graphs on how public holidays trigger a spending frenzy

Move over Boxing Day, Easter Thursday spending is picking up pace.

Graph for The Good Friday effect: Two graphs on how public holidays trigger a spending frenzy

Easter shopping doesn't empty the shelves like a natural disaster, but credit card data shows it sure does draw a crowd. (Image: News Corp Australia) 

Good Friday is one of two days (the other being Christmas Day), when almost all retailers around the country are forced to close their doors to customers, thus halting that 24/7, convenience-driven lifestyle that sustains modern Australia.

And it’s amazing what an impact this has on food retail sales.

This, in conjunction with a raft of celebrations that many Australians hold over the Easter break, drives the typical consumer into a spending frenzy, the like of which is only usually seen during the insanity of the Boxing Day sales.

This point is well and truly apparent in National Australia Bank’s latest round of credit card transaction data. Easter Thursday is typically one of the busiest retail days of the year. But according to this year's figures, this recent Easter Thursday beat last Christmas Eve in terms of the number of credit card transactions. And in a testament to the rise of card-based spending, the number of credit (and debit) card transactions has been growing year on year. It did, however, fail to dethrone Boxing Day - which is renowned as the biggest retail day of the year.

NAB wasn’t able to disclose exactly how much consumers are spending on their cards during this period. So we asked the other major banks for similar data. Commonwealth Bank didn’t have the data on hand. Westpac could only confirm the obvious -- that it saw more transactions in 2014 than it did in 2013. And ANZ failed to reply to our request before deadline.

However, another card payments firm, Tyro, was happy to provide both transaction and spending data for its 15,000 eftpos terminals around the country. And it confirmed the trend in NAB’s data – the Good Friday holiday really does send consumers into a spending rage.

Tyro saw around 720 transactions per minute at its peak on Easter Thursday. But this event was dwarfed by its Christmas Eve data. At midday last Christmas Eve, Tyro registered a jaw-dropping 1060 transactions per minute on its network. Last year, it also recorded around $79 million worth of transaction in the three days leading up to Christmas.

On December 23 alone, the firm put through up to $32 million worth of eftpos transactions – proving the Christmas still trumps Easter in terms of overall retail sales.

There are some limitations to this data. Even with all of this information, we can’t tell exactly what consumers are buying. However, an earlier study from IBISworld reiterated that food and beverage spending dominates the Easter shopping bonanza. It forecast that food and beverage spending to see a year-on -ear increase of 3 per cent to grand total of $1.2 billion this year.

So what can we draw out of all of this?

Well, firstly it seems public holidays don’t necessarily hamper retail. Sure, they may force retailers to pay double time to their staff to run the store. But in the case of food retail, the forced day off actually helps drive foot traffic and business. And secondly, it highlights how dependant we are on retail convenience – we shop as though in a panic when we know that the stores will be closed for a just one day.

Got a question? Ask the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter or leave a comment below.  And yes, he also participated in this year's last minute Easter Thursday shop-a-thon.

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