Australians are set for a record Boxing Day shopping splurge but more people than usual will be hunting a bargain online.
The National Retail Association has forecast a $2.75 billion spend in stores, up five per cent on last year, with $930 million in digital sales estimated.
NRA chief executive Dominique Lamb said Australians unable to travel overseas had been spending more money at home.
“It is much needed … for our retailers have had many difficult months,” Ms Lamb said in a statement.
“(Boxing Day) remains a signature event on the Australian shopping calendar.”
Clothes and kitchen items top the wishlist for Australians on Boxing Day, according to consumer group CHOICE.
A survey from online payment service PayPal has revealed people plan to do more than half their Boxing Day shopping on the internet.
Almost one third of the 1000 people polled were concerned the health risks of shopping in-store during the coronavirus pandemic were too high.
“Boxing Day sales are traditionally synonymous with long queues and bustling crowds at shopping centres,” PayPal Australia consumer expert Danielle Grant said.
“However, since COVID-19 we have seen record numbers of consumers shopping online, including many for the first time.”
In Sydney, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian had urged shoppers to shop online and not attend stores in person and risk spreading the virus.
The premier implored anyone who did venture out to wear a mask, use hand sanitiser and practise social distancing.
And it seemed as if Sydneysiders were heeding the messsage.
On Saturday, Ms Berejiklian said crowds of shoppers at Pitt Street Mall in the CBD were “substantially reduced and we’re deeply grateful”.
“We were very pleased this morning to see people listen to our restrictions regarding CBD shopping, thank you to everybody for your cooperation,” she said.
“Those who did turn up were wearing masks and obviously the number of people was substantially reduced and we are deeply grateful for that.”
But the premier acknowledged some suburban shopping centres, such as Westfield Parramatta and Chatswood, were busier than expected.
The Australian Retailers Association’s Paul Zahra told Sky News traffic into the Sydney CBD was down on Saturday, and shops which usually had long queues waiting for them to open, didn’t have them this year.
“We’ve learnt that NSW people are very compliant, there’s been very little traffic into the CBD locations. It was at a record low this morning,” Mr Zahra said.
“Normally people would queue up as early as Christmas Day night to get into the stores, but this year’s been a very different year, being a COVID year of course and with Gladys’ commentary. It’s certainly had an impact on the CBD locations this morning,” he said.
The rise in online Boxing Day shopping is being led by younger generations.
Gen Z (69 per cent) and Gen Y (66 per cent) are planning to shop online at a higher rate, compared with older Australians (30 per cent).
Most baby boomers (59 per cent) and Australians 68 years and over (70 per cent) still plan to head into stores.
The union representing retail workers has urged shoppers to wear a mask when visiting bricks-and-mortar outlets.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association said shoppers should also maintain social distancing inside stores.
“Take extra precaution around the Boxing Day sales. Remember they are not a one day event,” the SDA’s NSW/ACT secretary Bernie Smith said in a statement on Saturday.
“The reality is the Boxing Day sales usually run for about two weeks after Christmas. There is plenty of time to bag a bargain and stay safe too.
“Plan your sale visits over subsequent days to promote social distancing and help keep workers and fellow shoppers as safe as possible.”
Additional reporting by Jarni Blakkarly