Cindy Wockner
(Australian Associated Press)

Shoppers are expected to buy less for their near and dear this Christmas and to search for sales and deals before parting with their money.

Surveys of shoppers across the country paint a picture of frugality this year but retailers are not so gloomy, saying the Christmas spend will be past $50 billion.

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has impacted sharply on earnings and spending, many people are, according to surveys, reluctant to buy presents if travel restrictions mean they won’t be seeing relatives.

The Australian Consumer and Retail Studies centre at Monash University Business school surveyed 1500 shoppers across Australia during October about their Christmas retail plans.

Compared to shopping habits of previous years, the 2020 Christmas spend is expected to be more conservative, polling showed.

Of those surveyed, 66 per cent said they would be looking for sales and special deals and 58 per cent said they expect to be conservative.

Compared to their usual Christmas shopping habits almost one-quarter said they intend to spend less than usual on their immediate family this year. Slightly less, 23 per cent, said it was the same for spending on other relatives and 24 per cent will spend less than usual on friends.

The Monash team have been doing shopper pulse surveys around Australia since September, looking at attitudes and behaviours towards Christmas retail in the context of COVID-19.

Chief researcher Stephanie Atto, said a growing number of people were starting their shopping earlier than usual this year due to anticipated longer delivery times and uncertainty over stock levels.

Comparison site Finder surveyed 1011 people and found 46 per cent plan on doing their shopping during the sales including Black Friday and Boxing Day.

But another 54 per cent said they won’t be shopping during the sales – double the number who said they would not be shopping at sales, compared to last year.

Kate Browne, a personal finance expert at Finder, said COVID-19 had forced many to reconsider their spending.

“This year has been tough on many of us, with some Aussies needing to cut back on any and all discretionary spending.

“You might not have the luxury to splurge on sales items for yourself but you should make the most of discounts to save on your Christmas shopping,” Ms Browne said.

The survey found that 29 per cent planned to shop at Boxing Day sales and 26 per cent at Black Friday sales.

But only 13 per cent plan to spend more than $500 at the sales.

The National Retail Association’s projections however are not so gloomy.

It expects retail sales for the Christmas period to surpass $50 billion, up from $49.9 billion last year.

And the association is forecasting that online sales in 2020 will be up 53 per cent from last year to $5.2 billion.

“With people unable to travel overseas, the continuation of government assistance measures and a thirst from shoppers to get out of the house following lockdown periods, we’re confident that consumer spending will be solid,” CEO Dominique Lamb says.

“Christmas online sales are set to break the $5 billion barrier for the first time. The pandemic forced many retailers to expand their digital services and saw more shoppers embrace the convenience of online shopping.”

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider whether the information is appropriate to your circumstance before acting on it and, where appropriate, seek professional advice.