Shoppers search for a bargain at Westfield Woden during the end of year sales on Saturday, December 29. Some designer labels launched their end of year sales well in advance of the traditional December 26 starting date.

Shoppers search for a bargain at Westfield Woden during the end of year sales on Saturday, December 29. Some designer labels launched their end of year sales well in advance of the traditional December 26 starting date. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Australian designer labels were trigger-happy with the start of their end-of-year sales this year.

Some launched so far in advance of the traditional December 26 date that it left punters wondering whether the labels had suffered a dismal year.

Sass & bide, ksubi, Zimmermann and Rachael Ruddick were among those serving up early sale bargains. Sass & bide, which has a Canberra store as well as an online presence, spruiked its gear at up to 50 per cent off from December 21. Others began their sales as early as December 20.

The chief executive of the ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chris Peters, said the early sales were a sign of how concerned retailers were.

''Customer confidence is lacking,'' he said. ''[But] early sales are fabulous news for consumers.''

Mr Peters said early sales happened last year but this year's early online sales were unusual.

''Our economy is one of the strongest in the world but the global financial crisis was a wake-up call for many. Many [people] are now spending less and paying off debt or saving to build their resistance for the future,'' he said.

Fashion was likely to take a hit in the face of economic uncertainty as it was ''the most discretionary of spending''.

Mr Peters' retail forecast for next year was that it would depend on when the federal election happens: ''If it's March or April it'll be a tough first half; if it's in October, it'll be tough the whole year.''

Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said there was ''a bit of a glimmer'' in retail, which was ''a bit better'' than the past two years.

Fashion journalist Patty Huntington, who commentates on the business side of the industry, attributed the early label sales to brands wanting to make the most of the online shopping frenzy.

''It has been tough for everyone. [Labels] are just trying to capitalise on the buzz about online.''