HUNDREDS of bargain hunters have flocked to Melbourne's CBD for one of the busiest trading days of the year.
Hardcore bargain hunters gathered outside David Jones in Bourke St as early as 6.30pm yesterday, the Herald Sun reports.
"We just didn't want to miss out," Yi Wen Tham, 21, said.
"I've only slept for about 5 minutes . . . we came so early because we were too late last year."
When the doors at both stores opened at 5am, one passerby yelled: "It's gonna be a stampede".
Fortunately, the eager crowds were well-behaved as they filed inside.
Clothes, handbags and perfume were at the top of the list for most of the sleep-deprived shoppers.
The first 100 people outside David Jones received a $100 gift card.
"We want to spend up to $1000 so this will help," she said.
Myer shoppers gathered later, with the earliest arriving at 2.30am today.
"We've never come this early before, we thought we could get free gifts," said Preeti Dhillon, who was at the front of the line.
The shoppers are set to save up to $600 million across Australia today as stores offer deeper discounts to attract consumers who have been buying from abroad or not at all.
Bargain hunters are expected to pour more than half a billion dollars into Victorian retailers' tills today after a strong Christmas trade period.
The post-Christmas clearance season is the single-most critical period for retailers.
Chadstone opened at 7am and Highpoint at 8am.
"Last year, we did over 165,000 customers through the day on Boxing Day and we'd be expecting similar numbers this year," Chadstone centre manager Daniel Sutton said.
Victorians were expected to spend $588 million today, more than any other state, according to the Australian National Retailers Association.
Over the 20 possible shopping hours, bargain hunters would spend more than $29 million each hour or $490,000 every minute.
While most shoppers would hit the traditional stores, Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said online would play a bigger role than in any other year.
Dick Smith stores launched their sales online at 6pm on Christmas Eve.
Myer's Boxing Day campaign started at 9pm on Christmas Eve and David Jones's sales started online yesterday. The pull of online sales from overseas websites and demand for better discounts meant bricks and mortar stores had to work harder to entice shoppers in store, retail expert Steve Ogden-Barnes said.
"I think people are wanting to see 40 to 50 per cent off to get motivated," Dr Ogden-Barnes, from Deakin University, said.
He said "25 per cent off" sales were no longer enough with online competition.
"The real bargain hunting has now moved beyond that. You really have to push out some big headline numbers."
Estimates from ANRA found Australians could still be set to save about $600 million today, if the minimum discount of 25 per cent was taken off $2.4 billion worth of clothing, homewares and appliances on sale.
Mr Zimmerman said retailers expected a slight increase in spending this week after a tough 2012 for consumers and retailers.
"Consumers have had a tough 2012 with the introduction of the carbon tax, a soaring cost of living and mortgage stress from high interest rates."
Read more at the Herald Sun.