Christmas time at Coffs Harbour park beach plaza/Rachel Vercoe 20/12/2016
Christmas time at Coffs Harbour park beach plaza/Rachel Vercoe 20/12/2016 Rachel Vercoe

Christmas rush on the way

AS CHRISTMAS shopping ramps up, retailers and shopping centres are serving as a gauge of the regional economy.

A Christmas blitz is well and truly under way, and the number of panicked last-minute shoppers are expected to be off the charts on Christmas Eve this Saturday.

Despite nationwide talks of a recession earlier this month, Australians are estimated to be snapping up a hefty $8 billion worth of presents over the last week of Christmas, according to the Retail Council's Christmas Spending Index.

On the weekend, the final full weekend of Christmas trade, it was estimated that $3.5 billion was spent nationally.

"Department stores and shopping centres were likely to be nearing capacity this past weekend, with increased foot traffic as shoppers hunt around for last-minute gifts," the acting CEO of the Retail Council, Steve Wright, said.

"According to our statistics, 15% of Australians were looking to finalise their gift purchases over the weekend, taking advantage of extended store trading hours."

Strengthening the local spend is the Buy Local campaign promoted by the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce and the Coffs Harbour City Council.

A massive number of shoppers is expected at Park Beach Plaza this weekend as the 2016 calendar sees Christmas Eve fall on a Saturday.

"Signs indicate we are expecting a strong Christmas,'' Park Beach Plaza marketing manager Caroline Bleechmore said.

"The unknown factor is there are two extra days leading to Christmas this year.

"Saturday is traditionally a very busy day, so it will see us well ahead compared to last year in terms of customer numbers."

Tanya Maloney, manager of Terry White Chemist in the Plaza, has put on extra staff in preparation for this Saturday.

"I'm predicting madness in the Plaza on Christmas eve, and Boxing Day as well.

"It's been really busy, school holidays hit last weekend and we're getting a lot of tourists."

Toormina Gardens' marketing manager Hattie Watson said the shopping centre was seeing a healthy turnout this festive season.

"Major stores Coles, Kmart and Woolworths are reporting very good numbers. It's wonderful to see everyone coming out and supporting local businesses."

It is expected that shoppers will hit the ground running on Boxing Day with more shopping centres now permitted to trade on that day, the Retail Council says.

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