Australians set records for pre- and post-Christmas retail spending

Retailers are opting for big showrooms and smaller stores. Bigstock (Source: Bigstock)

Department stores and the foodservice sector drove “unprecedented” Boxing Day sales growth across Australia according to data from the Australian Retailers Association and Westpac DataX. 

And the ARA says the data shows pre-Christmas spending hit a record $74.5 billion – 8.6 per cent ahead of last year, a figure that “defied all expectations”. 

“This is without a doubt, the biggest festive season spend on record – it is unprecedented,” said ARA chief Paul Zahra.

On Boxing Day, Australians splurged $1.23 billion – up 15.3 per cent on 2021, with department-store sales of $149 million up by 23.6 per cent and the restaurants, cafes and takeaway food sector accounting for $124 million, up by 22.8 per cent year on year. 

Spending on household goods accounted for the highest share on Boxing Day, reaching $314.76 million, up by 14.3 per cent, followed by food and grocery retailing, up by a more modest 7.6 per cent to $264.52 million. 

Spending on apparel and accessories surged 19.8 per cent to $217.59 million. 

Prior to Boxing Day, there were some concerns in the retail community that higher-than-expected pre-Christmas spending combined with the impact of inflation and interest rates onc consumers’ discretionary spending might mute the traditional Boxing Day splurge-fest. 

But Zahra said the unprecedented pre-Christmas spending did not diminish the spending appetite of Aussies leading into what he described as the year’s “marquee retail savings event”.

“It is remarkable that in this period of economic turbulence, traders have well and truly smashed it out of the ball park as consumers reveled in ‘freedom’ spending. The last three years have been incredibly challenging for everybody – and retail traders were certainly no exception. The resilience and agility of the industry has been remarkable,” he said.

“Boxing Day has once again cemented its status as the Grand Final of Australia’s favorite sport, shopping.”

He said multiple elements drove the record spend, including a sense of ‘reward’ after the challenging period brought by Covid-19 and restrictions on movement and shopping. He also believes many Australians were motivated to buy now ahead of price rises driven by inflation – “and leverage savings during the sales events”. 

Westpac DataX used de-identified card-spend data to calculate the spending figures and provide insights during the key trading time.

“The data shows that despite a year of increasing living costs, Australian retail sales have remained strong over the holiday period, improving on last year,” said Jade Clarke, head of Westpac DataX. 

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