Originally published on the Herald Sun, appearing in print on December 18, 2016.
Words by Tamsin Rose and Reece Hooker.

THEY’RE as frantic as ever, but this year’s Christmas shoppers are also proving to be smart.

Shopping centres across Melbourne were bulging with last-minute gift-buyers yesterday, in what was tipped to be a $3.5 billion weekend splurge across the nation.

Melbourne retailers reported many shoppers did their homework before braving the stores — and arrived before opening time.

Savvy gift hunters did some research online before joining the crowds and used click and collect features to make the crush easier.

Personal shopper Lyndall Taylor (pictured) urged time-poor people to set budgets and gift numbers per person and make the most of extended trading hours.

“A lot of people get caught up in the fuss of it and tend to go overboard,” she said.

“A rule of thumb for kids’ presents is something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read.”

The rush was a win for retailers and, according to Retail Council projections, Victorians were set to pump almost $900 million into tills across the state. Carparks filled up quickly across shopping centres as patrons vied for coveted spots.

Westfield Southland centre manager Christian Nicholls noticed customers beat the early rush.

“It’s been extremely different this year. I arrived at about 8am and the centre was packed with people before the shops had even opened,” he said.

Myer executive general manager of stores Tony Sutton said carparks filled up early, as did Highpoint’s 7000 spaces within four hours of opening on Saturday morning.

David Jones regional manager Volkan Ozturk said click and collect made life easier for shoppers, up to half of whom have left their Christmas shopping to the last minute.

“It is easier for customers and it’s a combination of the instore experience and online shopping,” he said.

The influx of traffic has been unleashing chaos on the roads.

The traffic at Westfield Fountain Gate threw public transport and drivers into disarray yesterday, but Knox centre manager Rachel Duggan said rush was planned for.

“We are at capacity of staff with additional roaming concierge staff, security, traffic managers across all of our sites,” she said.

Three Ventura Bus routes were delayed and Westfield Doncaster suffered from a traffic logjam on Friday, as queues spilt along Doncaster Rd and into George St.

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