Festive street decorations outside Sydney's Queen Victoria Building (Image: Bishoy Bassilious)

The Christmas tills are ringing

In George Street, in the Sydney CBD, they can’t be missed: black arches topped with large red bows spanning the newly-laid tramlines, and bollards decked out in a Christmas present theme.

The new features of the streetscape are attracting both tourists and Sydneysiders, who pose for photos beneath the arches, during a break from Christmas shopping. Nearby Pitt Street Mall is also thronged with people hunting for bargains.

It’s the busiest time of year for retailers, and the National Retail Association (NRA) is predicting that every Australian state and territory will see an increase on Christmas 2017 spending, with a 5.4 per cent jump nationwide.

The highest expenditure is again expected to occur in New South Wales, with locals forecast to spend more than $16 billion, a six per cent increase on 2017.

Christmas arches span Sydney’s George Street (Image: Bishoy Bassilious)

The NRA’s chief executive, Dominique Lamb, says record sales are expected for the six-week Christmas period.

“The NRA is forecasting $50 billion in nationwide retail sales throughout the entire Christmas trade period, with the consumer interest set to reach those heights for the first time,” says Ms Lamb.

“Christmas is both a busy and important time of year for retailers, with many businesses recruiting extra staff to meet the increased consumer demand as Australians flock to the shops.”

According to the Association’s spokesperson, Mitchell Collier, Christmas shopping is now well under way.

“The National Retail Association considers the Christmas trade period to be the second half of November through all of December, so from about November 16 through to December 31,” he says.

The festive season is in full swing at Myer’s flagship Sydney store. Christmas trees and lights adorn every floor, as customers look for the perfect gift or an outfit for the holidays.

Since schools are yet to break, it’s just tourists and parents with young children who are visiting today. Among the activities on offer are visiting Santa’s Wonderland or marvelling at the near-life-sized Jurassic World LEGO Velociraptor or Ant-Man suit.

One shopper, Brian, is trying on a blue Rudolph-and-snowflake-themed suit and tie as customers snake up the escalators on their way to Myer’s popular Christmas Giftorium on Level 6.

“Looking good, mate,” someone shouts, as Brian smiles back while adjusting the tie.

“It’s for our office Christmas party,” he explains, noting it’s all about having fun at this time of year.

“I usually do my shopping closer to [Christmas Eve], but I thought I’d come down during my lunch break to see what I could find,” he says.

Christmas tree in Sydney’s Martin Place (Image: Bishoy Bassilious)

While it is one of the busiest times of the year, for Myer employees it’s also one of the most rewarding.

“We enjoy seeing the happiness on customers’ faces when they purchase a gift for someone, or themselves,” says one sales attendant, handing out sample fragrances to shoppers arriving off the escalators from Pitt Street Mall.

For those looking to do some festive shopping, get your skates on, or you’ll be racing Santa and his sleigh to put gifts under the Christmas tree. – @BBassilious