Counting down to Christmas 2018 with the ABS (Media Release)

   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All
19 December 2018
Embargo: 11.30 am (Canberra time)
Counting down to Christmas 2018 with the ABS

'Tis the season to be jolly and it's all about fun, festivities, food, families, getting away . . . and retail therapy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has provided some facts and figures on how Australians spend their Christmas.


It’s hardly surprising that December is a shopping bonanza for retailers. In each of the past five years, there has been an increase in sales of at least 21 per cent in original terms from November to December.

The biggest spikes in retail sales are Department Stores (65.5 per cent) and clothing, footwear and personal accessories (56.7 per cent) on average over the past five years. Post-Christmas Day bargain hunters make the Boxing Day sales the biggest single trading day of the year for many retailers.

Shoppers clicking for online sales rose 6 per cent from November to December 2017. However, online sales increased by 22.3 per cent between October and November 2017 with householders undertaking online purchases earlier to ensure delivery before Christmas.

Eats, drinks...let’s party

What would Christmas be without catching-up with friends, family and colleagues to party and have a celebratory drink or two?

ABS Household Expenditure Survey (HES) data shows that alcoholic beverages spending rises in the Summer months, with an average of $453 for each household compared to $426 in Spring, $385 in Autumn and $433 in Winter. Beer is the beverage of choice, with $166 spent on average in Summer compared to $150 in Spring, $145 in Autumn and $128 in the colder months.

Wine is not far behind beer in Summer with an average household expenditure of $136.

Christmas time is party central. HES data shows that the average spend across the Summer months on parties is $25 a week in Summer, which is a 93 per cent increase compared to other times of the year.

And we do like our seasonal, sun-ripened stone fruits. We spend $24 on average during the Summer months on succulent peaches, plums, mangoes and cherries, which is a 256 per cent increase compared to other times of the year.


Christmas is a time of giving and generosity. ABS HES data shows that cash gifts and donations to families and friends peak at an average per household of $87 in the summer months, an increase of 63 per cent compared to other times of the year.

Sports and camping

It's also a time to be sporty, and get out and about in the great outdoors. ABS HES figures show that average household expenditure on sports lessons in summer is $53 – a 47 per cent rise on the rest of the year.

It's when we pack the kids and tent into the car and head off to rough it and brave flies, mozzies and creepy crawlies. Our spending on camping equipment in summer averages $16, which is 209 per cent higher than in spring.


Christmas holidays are a time for adventure. New Zealand remains the top destination for Aussie travellers at Christmas time. We have always been keen to catch-up with our Kiwi cousins, with NZ remaining the top destination for Aussies for the past 10 years.

Indonesia has overtaken the United States as our second most popular destination during the yuletide season, with the United Kingdom and India next on our top-five favourite travel destinations.

The average time spent overseas at Christmas time has not changed much over the past decade, falling from 16 days in 2007 to 15 days last year.

The median age for all Aussies travelling during the Christmas period has remained fairly steady for the past 10 years, increasing from 35 years in 2007 to 36 in 2017.

Still call Australia home

By the Twelfth Day of Christmas (from 26 December to January 6) last year, nearly 400,000 Australian travellers had returned home, relaxed and refreshed from their overseas adventures. This is compared to 190,000 for the same period a decade earlier.

The ABS wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to 2019 and continuing to work with the community in supplying Australia’s essential statistics.