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Bargain hunters shop Boxing Day sales

Determined bargain hunters burst through shop doors as early as five in the morning to take advantage of Boxing Day sales.

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Going to the Boxing Day sales? Spare a thought for the country's retail workers.

They handled sales estimated at a bumper $42 billion over the past six weeks, in what retailers describe as the best period for business in years.

Obviously the big stores have got the better buying power so you'll probably get some prices there that might be a bit more competitive 

Russell Zimmerman

But after getting a day's rest for Christmas, they will be back at it again on Boxing Day - with the biggest retailers opening their doors before the sun comes up.

Customers storm into David Jones in Sydney on Boxing Day, 2012.

Customers storm into David Jones in Sydney on Boxing Day, 2012. Photo: Mark Metcalfe

David Jones' Elizabeth Street and Market Street stores in Sydney will open at 5am.

To attract shoppers they are offering $100 vouchers to the first 100 customers, and they have hired Australian actress Rose Byrne to ring the opening bell.

Myer, likewise, is opening its George Street doors at 5am. Elsewhere, its stores are opening at a lazier 7am.

Familiar scene: Shoppers descend on Boxing Day sales in 2012.

Familiar scene: Shoppers swarm on Boxing Day sales. Photo: Karleen Minney

Both retailers will be offering big discounts on their top brands.

David Jones expects to sell more than a million men's business shirts, a million towels, and even 150,000 Lego sets, among other things.

Myer is billing its sales as ''Australia's biggest stocktake sale,'' worth $175 million.

Russell Zimmerman, chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, says small retailers can often do well during this period. too.

''They've both got a good opportunity,'' Mr Zimmerman said. ''Obviously the big stores have got the better buying power so you'll probably get some prices there that might be a bit more competitive, but I think a local retailer can understand your local needs better. I actually think you can do better in your local independent stores than you can in some of the big ones.''

Mr Zimmerman said retailers planned ''well ahead'' for the Christmas sales period, but they used the Boxing Day sales to clear some of that stock from the shelves, as well as helping suppliers to sell some of their inventory.

''We think post-Christmas sales will be worth about $15.1 billion, which is a 3.8 per cent increase on this time last year,'' he said.

Retailers say consumers are more confident this year thanks to the Reserve Bank's decision to cut interest rates to 50-year lows, as well as the return of a majority government in Canberra.

Margy Osmond, the chief executive of the Australian National Retailers' Association, said the boost to confidence had fed into the best Christmas sales period in about five years.

JB Hi-Fi's ''End of Year Madness'' sale began on Christmas Eve. Bing Lee's online sale began on Christmas Day.

David Jones and Myer also started their online sales before Boxing Day.