SYDNEY — Thousands of Australian shoppers rushed to department stores Friday to pick up post-Christmas bargains, leaving retailers predicting bumper sales despite the economic crisis. Crowds gathered outside major shops in Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities hours before the doors opened from 5:00 a.m., to be the first to snap up the traditional Boxing Day discounts.
“We probably had two or three thousand people come through the door when we first opened,” Andrew Vaz, regional manager for department store Myer, told national news agency AAP.
“It certainly exceeded our expectations.” The Australian Retailers Association said sales were likely to top A$6.3 billion (US$4.3 billion) — a 2.0 percent increase on last year — in the next two weeks as those not normally drawn to sales splashed out.
The association’s executive director Richard Evans said retailers had had a tough year as consumers felt the pinch of higher petrol prices and mortgage repayments amid financial uncertainty.
But shoppers appeared to have shrugged off concerns about the global economic gloom to part with their money for heavily reduced items in the post-Christmas sales, he said.
“There’s every indication that it’s a normal Boxing Day rush,” he said.
Evans said consumers now had more money in their pockets because the cost of fuel and interest rates had fallen in recent months.
“I think they are cashed up, they haven’t been spending the money for the last couple of months and I think what gets folks is Christmas and Christmas sales,” he told AFP.
Evans said shoppers would also be encouraged by the Australian government’s A$10.4 billion fiscal stimulus package, which has given one-off payments to pensioners and middle- and lower-income families.
But he said he didn’t expect this to have a real impact until April or May because there was often a time lag between consumers having more money and spending it.
The Australian National Retailers Association said shoppers were out in force on Friday to snap up bargains following heavy pre-Christmas discounting.
“Boxing Day is shaping up as the biggest shopping day of the year, with a rush for everything from shoes to lawnmowers giving a shot in the arm to retailers large and small,” chief executive Margy Osmond said.
“Retailers across the country opened their doors to hordes of shoppers and many are comparing crowds to last year’s record showing.”
Osmond said that the depreciating Australian dollar, which has dropped from more than 98 U.S. cents to less than 70 U.S. cents since mid-year and which will make imported goods more expensive, had encouraged shoppers.
“That means consumers are unlikely to see prices this low for the foreseeable future,” Osmond said in a statement.
Major department store chain David Jones estimates it will sell one million business shirts, half a million towels and 100,000 pairs of shoes in the post-Christmas sales.