BARGAIN hunting is the trend among early Christmas shoppers, according to industry insiders in both Maryborough and Hervey Bay.
Kristen Maslen, manager of recently opened mini-department store Harris Scarfe at Stockland Hervey Bay, said customers were definitely looking at the bargain items with most of them going for goods featured in the catalogues.
"We only released the catalogues last Wednesday and we're already out of key catalogue lines," she said.
Ms Maslen said Harris Scarfe recorded a 10% increase in shoppers last week after a massive crowd for the August opening, then a dip in business a month later before it picked up again last week.
She said they had also noticed customers were spending more.
"As soon as it got to November 24, customers started to get the Christmas buzz," Ms Maslen said.
"We're also seeing an increase in customer flow - there's people walking through the doors all the time. There's also a lot of repeat buyers and we've noticed a big increase in kitchenware, tableware and cookware as Christmas gifts."
Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Tim Powers agreed it was the bargains people were going for.
He said people were spending as much money as they did last year but were shopping smarter by grabbing discounted goods.
"Most consumer-type goods, particularly children's toys, albeit a shop like Spotlight has also benefited by its newness to this city," Mr Powers said.
He said with the school holidays coming up, the crowds would grow.
"There's a good percentage of shoppers coming from out of town - from across the Wide Bay region and they are not only spending their dollars in shopping centres but in cafes, and accommodation houses as well," he said.
In Maryborough, Station Square Shopping Centre manager Doug Sanderson said people began their Christmas spending in the past couple of weeks and the majority were going for a bargain.
"I think retailers in the past few years have pre-conditioned people to buy 'on sale' items, so a lot of customers would watch online for specials to make a purchase at a particular store." he said.
Mr Sanderson said unlike the Bay, most Maryborough shoppers were locals with only 2-3% coming from outside the Fraser Coast.
He said the Reject Shop, which opened last month at the centre, was also pulling in the crowd while Coles's move to rebadge all the remaining Bi-Lo stores as Coles had also made a positive difference in shoppers' spending.