Australians have set retail spending records before and after Christmas

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

And ARA says data shows spending before Christmas hit a record $74.5 billion — up 8.6 percent year-on-year, a number that “beat all expectations.”

“This is without a doubt the biggest holiday edition of all time – it’s unprecedented,” said ARA chief Paul Zahra.

On Boxing Day, Australians spent $1.23 billion – up 15.3 percent from 2021, with department store sales up 23.6 percent at $149 million and the restaurants, cafes and takeaways sector $124 million, up 22.8 percent year-on-year.

Household goods spending made up the highest share on Boxing Day, reaching $314.76 million, up 14.3 percent, followed by food and grocery retail, up a more modest 7.6 percent to $264.52 million -dollar rose.

Apparel and accessories spending increased 19.8 percent to $217.59 million.

Ahead of 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 on consumer discretionary spending could dampen the traditional Boxing Day splurge.

But Zahra said unprecedented pre-Christmas spending hasn’t dampened Aussies’ appetites to spend, leading to what he dubbed the “marquee retail savings event” of the year.

“It’s remarkable that during this period of economic turmoil, retailers really kicked it out of the ballpark as consumers indulged in ‘free’ spending,” Zahra said. “The last three years have been incredibly challenging for everyone – and retailers have certainly been no exception. The resilience and agility of the industry has been remarkable.

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

He said several elements drove the record spending, including a sense of “reward” following the challenging period imposed by COVID-19 and restrictions on movement and shopping. He also believes many Australians were motivated to buy now ahead of inflation-related price increases – “and to take advantage of savings during sales events”.

Westpac DataX used de-identified card spend data to calculate spend numbers and provide insights during key trading hours.

“Data shows that despite a year of rising cost of living over the holiday season, Australian retail sales have remained strong and improved on a year ago,” said Jade Clarke, head of Westpac DataX.

This story first appeared in our sister publication At retail Australians have set retail spending records before and after Christmas

Adam Bradshaw

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