Australian retailers are expecting a late Christmas present as shoppers flock to stores in search of last minute gifts and festive fare.
Christmas Eve shoppers are predicted to blow about $18 billion nationwide, according to the National Retail Association, as late spending boosts the fragile sector.
The overall spend is expected to reach $51.4 billion around the country in the period from November 15 to Christmas eve, according to separate figures from the Australian Retailers Association.
Overall, that spend is up 2.9 per cent on previous years.
ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman said the biggest increase this year had come from online sales, but food was at the top of the list when it came to increased indulgence.
“Food has topped the increase this year,” he said.
Mr Zimmerman said online sales such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November had become an important aspect of the Christmas trade.
“Every retailer I’ve spoken to in the past couple of days has been very comfortable with the way sales have gone,” he said.
“With the drought, there have been a lot of people affected by this drought in country towns. So prices of food have gone up.
“The other thing that’s got a fairly high increase is hospitality, so eating out.”
Apparel has increased by 3.1 per cent.
“I don’t think the discounting is as harsh and hard as it has been in years gone by.”
And retailers are predicting that Australians will spend a further $2.4 billion in the Boxing Day sales, an increase of 5.5 per cent on last year.
Most shopping centres will close by 6pm on Christmas eve, but some will stay open up until midnight.