Sixty-two per cent of retailers surveyed this week indicated the successful 2008 Christmas retail trade was the same or better than the bumper 2007 Christmas period.

According to Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Richard Evans, although the $37 billion spent over Christmas was in line with economic projections for the sector, the successful trade exceeded some expectations with 44 per cent of retailers saying trade over the period was better than they anticipated.

"Australians were cashed up for gift giving this Christmas after successive interest rates cuts and reductions in petrol prices, but retailers are thanking the Rudd Government for the successful festive trading period with 57 per cent of retailers reporting the economic stimulus package made an impact on trade," said Evans.

Retailers are expecting consumers to continue spending the government’s stimulus package during pro-longed post-Christmas sales, with a further 43 per cent of retailers yet to feel the impact.

"Retailers are working hard to stimulate consumer spend with post-Christmas sales continuing for longer than usual, but earlier indicators show the traditional three week post-Christmas sale period has been the same or better than last year for 68 per cent of retailers, said Evans.

The first Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence poll for 2009 is showing continued growth climbing back to confidence levels felt in March 2008, just when the RBA hiked interest rates.

"This is a great start to 2009 for retailers who struggled for most of last year, and as long as employment in the economy remains stable (and we must remember full employment is measured at five per cent), retailers will remain optimistic of growth returning to the sector in April with significant growth expected from July. We ask all employers, not just retailers, to retain their staff for the sake of the economy," said Evans.