Australians face a mixed bag of price hikes and pleasant surprises in their Christmas shopping trolley this year.

Australians adults spent an average of $2500 in the six week leading up to last Christmas, according to the Australian Retailers Association, and now is the time of year many start budgeting for the big day.

The weak Australian dollar will ruin the plans of bargain hunters wanting to take advantage of low prices offered by overseas sellers online.

A $US90 Lego set for example would have cost $A103 last Christmas, but $122 this week.

Local bricks and mortar retailers are also being stung by the dollar, but retail consultant Brian Walker said they were more likely to absorb the loss themselves rather than pass it on to shoppers.

“We’re going to have a good Christmas trading period and I think going to see a very gift-giving Christmas this year,” Mr Walker said from the Retail Doctor Group,

“I’d expect a lot of aggression in apparel, merchandise and electronic retailing, where devaluation is occurring.”

Mr Walker said overseas players like H&M and makeup giant Sephora would keep price competition fierce.

Soonee Armsby, owner of Junior Republic toy shop in Port Melbourne, said some suppliers had passed on price increases because of the falling Australian dollar.

“There are some things that we’ve had to increase the price on, but if it’s only marginal we don’t bother passing that on,” she said.

“If it’s minimal, then we just carry that cost.”

Mrs Armsby expected remote control helicopters that sell for about $100 would be her most popular items this Christmas along with scooters and balance bikes for toddlers.

Online research

Customers were also researching the lowest prices online before shopping, which also increased competition among retailers.

“Over 85 per cent of Australians research prices online now, particularly big-ticket items,” Mr Walker said.

“This will be the year that the website as a research tool plays a big part.”

While some shoppers might be startled by the price popular tech items like iPhones, the most recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the price of audio, visual and computing equipment has dropped 1.37 per cent since last Christmas.

The data, included in the bureau’s consumer price index research, also shows that games and toys have become 0.85 per cent cheaper since December and 3.4 per cent cheaper since June last year.

This happened when the average cost of all consumer good became 0.85 more expensive.

Popular Christmas gifts like outdoor and sporting equipment became 2 per cent more expensive from December to June, power tools and gardening utensils rose 1.9 per cent and men’s clothing jumped 1.7 per cent.

Across the board, clothes and shoes remained stable.

Food price shock waiting

The real price shock might hit when it comes to putting on a Christmas Day spread, with seafood and meat prices skyrocketing.

Dimitrios Goulas, general manager of Conway Fish Trading in Footscray, in Melbourne’s west, was this week selling live crayfish for $129 a kilogram, up from $98 a kilogram at Christmas last year.

He said local seafood sellers paid the going wholesale export price for Australian crayfish, which jumped significantly when the dollar fell.

Mr Goulas said he was negotiating with his suppliers this week for his Christmas stock and the price could go even higher.

“The final price might be mid-hundreds; we just don’t know yet,” he said.

Red meat has also jumped, with the average retail price of beef increasing $1.35 a kilogram to $16.78 in the 12 months to June according to the ABS.

Meat and Livestock Australia says the saleyard price of cattle in eastern states has been sitting close to the $6, up from about around $4 last Christmas.

The price of meat and seafood is good news for John Watson, owner of Pooginagoric Free Range Turkey, near Bordertown in South Australia, whose birds have stayed the same price.

“We’re expecting demand to be up too, because red meat is up and so is seafood,” Mr Watson said.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald 16/10/15