With interest rates at their lowest since December 2003, petrol prices on the decline and the Rudd Government’s stimulus package landing in pockets, consumers have cash to spend, boasting retailers’ confidence about the 2008 Christmas period. They expect year-on-year growth between two and 2.5 per cent, totalling $37.2 billion coursing through the economy via retail sales.

The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) executive director Richard Evans said the retail cycle hit its peak last Christmas but retailers were still expecting to increase on last year’s bumper $36.5 billion Christmas spend.

"Retailers are optimistic about solid sales during the holiday season, although growth may not be as significant as last year’s decade-strong Christmas trade – there is growth nonetheless. This is good news for retailers who have been suffering all year," said Evans.

The results of the Deloitte ARA Christmas Retail Survey suggest it will be a traditional Christmas this year with popular gift ideas including books (19.3 per cent), followed by clothes/shoes (16.2 per cent), music and CDs (14.8 per cent), videos/DVDs (14 per cent), cosmetics and perfumes (10.6 per cent), jewellery and watches (8.9 per cent), entertainment tickets (8.8 per cent) and sports equipment and sportswear (7.3 per cent).

In the toy department outdoor toys and board games (33.8 per cent) and traditional gifts including dolls, toy cars and trains (25.4 per cent) will be stuffing many a stocking, according to Evans. But kids can rest assure Santa’s sack will feature plenty of electronics with MP3 players and iPods (14.7 per cent), Nintendo Wii’s (13.4 per cent) and computer games (12.9 per cent) top of the list.

"No matter what is on the Christmas shopping list, now is the time for consumers to start their Christmas shopping because there are a lot of bargains to be had at the moment." Evans said.

However, savvy shoppers should finalise their Christmas shopping early next week to avoid retail rage from last minute Christmas crowds and remain calm during post-Christmas sales.

“In the lead up to Christmas many of the larger retailers and shopping centres will extend trading hours to accommodate the last minute rush but many retailers bear the brunt of consumer frustration over this period, as well during post-Christmas and Boxing Day sales,” Evans said.

“Rather than focussing on larger retailers and department stores, consumers can also avoid crowd delays by shopping at smaller and independent retailers who are offering generous pre-Christmas sales this year.”