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Boxing Day trade encapsulates an unconventional year of retail

Boxing Day 2020 has by all reports encapsulated the major ups and downs the retail sector faced this year, with an apparent reliance on online shopping and, mostly, a Covid-safe bricks-and-mortar event.

The annual shopping event was tipped to cap off a “very successful” holiday period, according to National Retail Association chief Dominique Lamb, who said with consumer sentiment at a 10-year high retailers could expect Boxing Day sales around of $2.75 billion – a premium on last year’s $2.6 billion.

However, whereas years prior would see Sydney shoppers lining up in the early morning to get their hands on discounted deals – to the point that Lamb suggested shoppers bring water and comfy shoes to best survive the day – by all accounts most CBDs were relatively empty early on in the day.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and chief health officer Dr. Kerry Chant urged shoppers to avoid Sydney’s CBD on Boxing Day, noting that while retailers had made the experience Covid-safe they recommended online shopping or suburban centres as alternatives.

And whether shoppers were scared away by the rising cases in Sydney, which are in the midst of a second spike, or were simply shopping online or closer to home, the afternoon brought a surge of shoppers to Sydney’s CBD which by all accounts abandoned social distancing.

According to The Age shopping in Melbourne remained more consistent, if less frenzied than prior years, throughout the day.

Most customers wore face masks on the day.

Australian Retailers’ Association boss Paul Zahra said holiday foot traffic could be down this year, with many shoppers having turned to online shopping throughout 2020 and having come to trust it to a point they feel comfortable doing Boxing Day shopping from the comfort of their homes.

The NRA predicted online spend on Boxing Day to grow 42 per cent to $930 million this year – a massive growth on the $655 million seen last year, which was itself a ~23 per cent growth on the year prior.

While the day’s take hasn’t yet been fully revealed, signs are pointing to a fairly healthy, if unconventional, Boxing Day – an approximation of the year behind the industry at large.

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