“I really believe it’s going to happen with a big bang in the last few days,” Mr Zimmerman said.
Mr Woolford agreed, saying: “Saturday, Sunday and Monday are going to be enormous trading days given the way people have planned their time off and Christmas shopping – this weekend will be bigger than last weekend.”
Christmas is make or break time for many retailers and can account for more than a third of annual earnings for discretionary retailers and twice average monthly earnings for food retailers, according to Citigroup.
Mr Woolford said foot traffic in shopping centres was better than this time last year, when traffic fell almost 20 per cent in the week before Christmas, and most of the factors required for a good Christmas were in place.
Sales have been stable, enabling retailers to manage inventory and staffing and wages have improved slightly, while pre-Christmas discounting has not been as widespread as it was in 2017.
However, Mr Woolford is worried post-Christmas clearance sales could fizzle this year because many bargain-hunters snapped up deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions, which pulled sales forward into November.
“Boxing Day could end up being quite good but the appeal of the promotions could peter out for shoppers quite quickly,” he said.
In Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall on Wednesday, Port Macquarie resident Jill Follington, who comes to Sydney every year for Christmas shopping, planned to spend over $1200 on presents, almost exclusively in stores rather than online.
Kim Luscombe, from Mulgoa near Penrith, was shopping with her three daughters and mother Robyn Doyle. Ms Luscombe had already bought about 50 Christmas presents, spending “a couple” of thousand dollars, half in stores and half online. That’s well above the average $664 Australians spend during Christmas, according to deals site Picodi.
Popular products this year, according to retail software management company vend, include environmentally sustainable and reusable products (up more than 1000 per cent since 2017), computers and accessories (up 300 per cent), vintage vinyl and records (up 260 per cent), active wear (up 230 per cent) and drones and virtual reality products (up 78 per cent).
These trends auger well for retailers such as JB Hi-Fi, whose shares have fallen 12 per cent this quarter, and Rebel Sport owner Super Retail Group, whose shares are down 19 per cent.
“[Investor] expectations for Christmas are quite poor – it’s not as bad as that,” Mr Woolford said.