Shoppers are expected to hit the pavement in droves this weekend, with retailers hoping the traditional last-minute sales spike of the third week in December and tumbling Australian dollar helps deliver a strong Christmas sales period.

Tills have already started ringing loud and clear throughout Aussie bricks and mortar stores this December, according to data from the Australian Retail Index. Created by BDO and Retail Express, the Index draws on daily sales figures from thousands of retailers across the country.

BDO National Retail Lead Partner Simon Scalzo said although figures continued to improve as Christmas drew closer, typically the strongest week of the year was still to come as customers rush to stores for those last-minute Christmas gifts

“Bricks and mortar sales were up more than 4% in the first week of December and almost 3% the second week, however in 2014 the third week of December delivered a whopping 10% increase in sales and retailers will be hoping for a similar result this weekend, ”Mr Scalzo said.

“There are already signs this year may be stronger than last across some categories such as fashion which is showing a 12.36% increase in sales this week compared with the same week last year.

“The continued decline in the Australian dollar is very likely triggering this increase in foot traffic, with the current US71¢ exchange rate making shopping locally more attractive, given shoppers are getting less bang for their buck when ordering abroad than years gone by.

“For example an item worth US$50 would currently cost about AUD$70 compared to AUD$56 when the exchange rate was around US89¢ two years ago.

“New store openings are also creating a buzz for shoppers, with the Brisbane market for example welcoming a new H&M, Zara and Uniqlo stores in recent weeks.”

While Christmas often gets the blame for credit card blowouts, the Australian Retail Index indicated this was not always the most popular form of payment.

“In the second week of December it was actually voucher payments that increased the most at more than 9% – possibly some early Christmas gifts being put to use – follower by cash payments at almost 8% and debit at 7%,”Mr Scalzo said.

“The average basket size increased by more than 14% in the first week of December and almost 5% in the second week, indicating people are buying more.

“In positive news for retailers looking to move stock close to Christmas, item numbers per transaction grew by more than 12% in week one and almost 9% in week two.”