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Christmas shoppers set to spend billions

AAP logoAAP 15/12/2016 Sarah McPhee

Retailers are confident Aussies will spend nearly $50 billion this Christmas, with just 10 sleeps left for shoppers to deck the malls.

The Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan Research have forecast pre-Christmas sales will hit $48.1 billion, up 2.3 per cent on last year.

Some stores have already hung out their sale signs, but ARA executive director Russell Zimmerman says the industry is "tracking fairly well and retailers, generally speaking, think they're going to be on budget.

"We're heading in the right direction," he told AAP on Thursday.

However, the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey shows consumer confidence at a nine-month low.

Mr Zimmerman said the result is at odds with feedback from retail sector, with plenty of spending on fast food and a nationwide sell-out of the hottest toy for 2016.

Marketing company Hitwise found products from Fitbit, Nespresso and Apple to be the most-searched products online throughout November, while Hatchimals cracked the top spot in the toy department.

But don't expect to find the $80 interactive plush bird on the shelf.

"They are a reasonably expensive item and a couple of weeks ago I heard that they had sold out," Mr Zimmerman said.

"I have to seriously question whether Westpac's numbers are right.

"If consumer confidence is that bad, why are these things happening?"

He said early discounting by some stores, including department store Harris Scarfe's Boxing Day sale which began on December 12, is not a sign that businesses are struggling as they are "no different to any previous year".

Shopping centres are already lined with sale signs offering up to 70 per cent off while major retailers including David Jones, Myer and Witchery have adopted one-day offers to attract Christmas shoppers.

But actually getting to the shops during the silly season remains a problem for some.

For those who dread the idea of circling car parks, one Brisbane shopping centre at Indooroopilly is offering free Uber rides next week, up to the value of $20, from anywhere in the city to the centre.

CHRISTMAS SPENDING PREDICTIONS:

* NSW: $15.499 billion, up 3 pct

* VIC: $12.038 billion, up 2 pct

* QLD: $9.732 billion, up 2.6 pct

* SA: $3.154 billion, up 3.7 pct

* WA: $5.342 billion, flat

* TAS: $952 million, up 2.8 pct

* NT: $494 million, up 0.2 pct

* ACT: $870 million, up 2.7 pct

(Source: ARA)

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