The biggest shopping season of the year kicked off this week, with Australian consumers expected to spend big on toys and games in retail stores over the Christmas period, with a total retail spend of $46.7 billion expected in the six weeks from November 15 to December 24, says the Australian Retailers Association (ARA).

 New research by the ARA and Roy Morgan Research confirms that this year’s favourite stocking stuffers will be kids outdoor games and toys, closely followed by indoor games and toys.

 “This week marks the beginning of what we expect to be a crazy couple of months for retailers and shopping centres, with consumers starting their Christmas shopping in earnest from around November 15,” said ARA Executive Director, Russell Zimmerman.

 “The ARA expects spending on toys to spike significantly in the coming weeks, as Santa, along with parents and family stock up on Christmas gifts for the kids,” he said.

 Compared with the rest of the year, in the Christmas shopping period between November 2014 and January 2015, kids outdoor games and toys saw a 143 percent increase, while indoor games and toys purchase popularity grew by 123 percent.

 For the big kids among us, products with the largest growth for the period were women’s dresses, which grew 101 percent; men’s trousers, shorts and pants, also up 101 percent, and perfume and aftershave, up 77 percent.

 “For adults this Christmas, we’ll see a rise in products generally seen as traditional gift purchases, such as apparel and perfume, while electronics and technology is also predicted to be a money spinner for retailers this Christmas.”

 Comparing the best selling items of Christmas 2013 to Christmas 2014, phones and accessories saw the greatest rise, at 109 percent; while women’s socks rose 92 percent; personal entertainment and cameras, 92 percent; women’s hosiery, 88 per cent, and women’s sportswear, 70 percent.

 “The growth in women’s sportswear for Christmas last year is evidence of the popularised trend that’s been picked up by social media of women donning activewear as everyday fashion, as well as for sports activities,” Mr Zimmerman said.

 “Surprisingly though, sports equipment purchases last Christmas fell 36 percent on the previous year, along with manchester and soft furnishings, women’s sleepwear, and car accessories and care products.

 “Christmas 2015 is shaping up to be strong despite rising home loan rates and wavering consumer sentiment, and this week will set the tone for the 3.6 percent growth we’re expecting to see,” he said.