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Boxing Day, Black Friday sales at retailers like Myer hit by Covid-led staff shortages, stock delays

Wild scenes of shoppers packing retail stores at Christmas and rushing the doors for massive Boxing sales binges could be over.

Christmas and Boxing Day shopping could be unrecognisable this year due to pandemic-led staff issues, stock delays and shoppers turned off by Covid safety measures.

There's even speculation the lingering effects of the pandemic could produce a seismic shift away from shopping in person as customers migrate to online shopping in their millions.

But the biggest changes could be to the traditional Boxing Day sales bonanza Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra told The Daily Telegraph. 

Christmas and Boxing Day shopping could be unrecognisable this year due to pandemic-led staff issues, stock delays and shoppers turned off by Covid safety measures

Long queues due to restricted store capacity and check-in procedures such as checking vaccine status and QR codes and the requirement to wear masks indoors are a turn-off to shoppers

'We're not going to see those images for some time to come, people are shifting to shopping online … when you put that Covid safety in place it puts a lot of customers off,' Mr Zahra said.

'High volumes' of customer traffic in stores during holiday shopping is normally 'a real positive', he said, but not this year.

Feedback to the ARA even suggests some stores will be closed, while big retailers are downsizing floor space area for sales.

'It's a common thread when I speak to retailers, they say: 'I've opened this location and moved all my staff to this location … I can't open my other locations because I just don't have the staff' Mr Zahra said. 

Although freedoms have returned to New South Wales and Victoria, retailers have far less capacity to deal with big crowds.

Their staffing levels are at all-time lows, due in part to widespread requirement for new staff to be double-vaccinated.

And massive global supply chain problems have led to product delays that threaten any retailers ability to fully stock their shelves with the most in-demand items.

Shops such as hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons and nail salons have been busy.

But others outlets selling items such as clothing have struggled.

At Westfield Tuggerah, on the NSW Central Coast, some clothing stores remained closed after Freedom Day. 

The Sportgirl store at Sydney's Broadway shopping Centre opened with several empty racks. 

The popularity of online shopping has surged during the pandemic and for many bargain hunters it is preferable to long queues and wearing masks in store

Customers wanting to do their Christmas shopping in-store will be warned to expect delays with store capacity restrictions due to Covid 

But one of the biggest drivers likely to downsize Boxing Day sales is customer impatience with the many remaining Covid restrictions.

These include long queues due to restricted store capacity and check-in procedures such as checking vaccine status and QR codes and the requirement to wear masks indoors.

The possible introduction of temperature checks by some retailers could also be introduced at the entry to malls.

The boss of one of Australia's biggest retail groups has called on shopping centre owners to take more responsibility for coronavirus safety by introducing temperature checks. 

Solomon Lew , whose company runs Peter Alexander and Smiggle, says each outlet in shopping centres could not be expected to have staff dedicated to screening customers

Solomon Lew, whose Premier Investment company runs owns Peter Alexander and Smiggle, said he believes customers should have their temperature checked upon arrival at shopping cente entrances rather than the burden falling to individual shops.

How virus fears and tough Covid rules will affect the shoppers' - and retailers' - experiences will start to become much clearer next month.

In recent years sales on 'Black Friday', November 26, has kick-started the month-long in-store Christmas shopping binge. It is closely followed by Cyber Monday, on November 29.

Nearly 14 million Aussies - 71 per cent of all shoppers - are expected to flock to Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales according to a Finder.com.au survey.

But both dates are expected to be heavily online-focused because of retailers' many issues and customer impatience with Covid safety measures. 

Research by Roy Morgan showed that 58 per cent of shoppers will buy more Christmas gifts online this year.