Retailers across the country are coping with a rash of last-minute gift buying on Christmas Eve, with spending for this year expected to top $48 billion across Australia.
The Sydney Fish Market is typical of the last-minute spendathon, reeling in a record number of shoppers visiting its traditional 36-hour pre-Christmas trade marathon.
More than 77,000 people have tackled the crowds and packed their eskies full of seafood since 5am on December 23, with organisers expecting records to be broken this year.
“Last year we had a massive 114,000 people and we’re tracking to beat that this year,” Sydney Fish Market general manager Bryan Skepper told AAP on Sunday.
“It’s great fun, it never ceases to amaze me. People come here with the expectation it’s going to be crowded but everyone is relaxed and treat this as part of the Christmas experience.”
Christmas Day falling on Monday this year means some shoppers – mostly the male of the species, according to anecdotal reports – have delayed their purchases to the last minute, National Retail Association chief executive Dominique Lumb told AAP.
The last day rush is seeing food and jewellery figure prominently, Ms Lumb said.
“In relation to those last-minute gifts we know that men tend to leave it to the last minute, and we know that jewellers tend to have a small window in terms of what their Christmas looks like.
“With high-end items, people like to touch and feel them so in these last two days those are really quite significant days for those retailers.”
Tech products such as Google’s Home Mini and the HP Sprocket photo printer have proven popular items so far this festive season while Myer’s personalised Tim Tams have also proven a hit for the department store.
Ms Lumb said modern retail was no longer a battle between “bricks or clicks”, with more established retail companies now firmly involved in online shopping.
She added the continuing popularity of gift cards indicated another spending spree when the Boxing Day sales begin post-Christmas.
“We’re very excited about Boxing Day and certainly we expect to see higher levels than last year,” she said.
Back at the Sydney Fish Market prawns were the hot item, with oysters and blue swimmer crabs also popular, Mr Skepper said.
“My favourite is the smoked salmon, it goes together with Christmas perfectly.”
After flying in from New Zealand on Saturday night, Karin Challeeder was at the markets bright and early on Sunday morning.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, it’s just amazing,” Ms Challeeder told AAP.
Arms full of bags packed with prawns and octopus, Tonga Tapukalanga is a regular to the markets, making the trip every year before Christmas Day.
“It’s the spirit of Christmas,” she said.