Hectic Boxing Day at Auckland malls despite spending expected to be down

There was mayhem at malls on Tuesday as Kiwi shoppers chased Boxing Day deals.

Traffic was backed up at retail hotspots, leaving some people waiting hours just to get a carpark.

And Auckland shoppers faced more frustration when Newmarket's mall was evacuated.

There was consumer chaos at Auckland's Westfield Newmarket today, after a fire alarm went off following a fog cannon's accidental activation, forcing hoards of shoppers to evacuate.

"We went to Newmarket and got evacuated by a fire and it was a bit of chaos," one shopper said.

But that didn't deter them.

"I got a lot of stuff," one said.

"Pretty good pretty good, just went into I Love Ugly," another added.

Boxing Day brought the bargain hunters out in force - there were queues outside Dress Smart in Onehunga, and traffic was backed up at Sylvia Park.

"We got up at 6am this morning to come down here from Whangarei," an eager shopper said.

Clearly the shoppers are out in force at Sylvia Park. It took two hours to get a carpark, but a PriceSpy survey in the lead-up to Boxing Day suggested that spending would be more subdued this year because of inflation.

The average amount New Zealanders planned to spend on Boxing Day last year was about $1200, but this year it dropped to $840, a decrease of 30 percent.

While food and liquor spending was up 7.1 percent in December, according to retail spending statistics, there is a catch.

"If you take into account the food and liquor sales are probably flat, and when you look at the core retail sales figures, what we see there is that with the cost of living crisis and inflation, and the net migration figures of around 130,000 in New Zealand in the last 12 months, you can see that sales are actually down," Retail NZ CEO Carolyn Young said.

So, retailers have been pushing the Boxing Day sales hard in their last big chance for the year.

"Disposable income to choose to spend on retail and Christmas presents and so forth has declined, and as a result, they haven't been spending their money as freely, and as a result of that, retailers are desperate to get the sales in," Massey University marketing Professor Bodo Lang said.

And despite the tight belts it seems a lot of Christmas purchases weren't necessary, nearly 5000 unwanted gifts have already been listed on Trade Me, including a cast iron chicken.

Tiana Barnes from Trade Me said one person has already listed a double-up gift.

"A basketball singlet given to someone who actually already had that exact same singlet and has worn it multiple times around their partner," Barnes said.

And by the looks of these crowds, there could soon be a whole lot more second-hand bargains, up for grabs.