GALLERY: Big crowds at Shellharbour Boxing Day sales

Bargains were snapped up across the region with thousands flocking to post-Christmas sales on Thursday.

Stockland Shellharbour retailers felt the heat, with the centre expecting crowds of eager shoppers through the doors from 8am to 9pm.

"We've had over 600,000 people through the doors in December so far, we're trading very well in our first Christmas since our $330 million redevelopment was completed, and we're expecting Boxing Day to be bigger than ever with Myer now open at Stockland Shellharbour," centre manager Brett Leonard said on Wednesday.

"Traditionally the Boxing Day sales have rivalled Christmas Eve in terms of centre visitations, as customers take advantage of the incredibly strong offers provided by our retailers, being the only shopping centre permitted to open on Boxing Day within the region."

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Mr Leonard said the centre's Myer department store would be opening from 7am to 9pm, with a wide range of savings on items store-wide, including "exceptional" hourly specials.

He also expected the fresh food market to be busy, as Illawarra residents continued their festive celebrations.

"Pre-Christmas gift card sales have been exceptionally strong in 2013, so we are expecting many recipients of gift cards as Christmas gifts to pass through the doors on Boxing Day to get their share of the bargains," he added.

Wollongong Central centre manager Dean Young said CBD-bound shoppers will have to wait till Friday to start their shopping sprees, with the centre unable to open on Boxing Day due to controversial trading laws.

However, more than 40,000 people are expected through the centre on Friday when it is open from 8am to 6pm.

Mr Young said the two major department stores in town, Myers and DJs, and selected other retailers would open extended hours from 7am to 10pm to deal with the post-Christmas rush.

"[Friday] is a phenomenal day for us in the centre - prior to Christmas there's lots of individuals out getting gifts but afterwards shopping is much more family focused," he said.

"There's a real buzz in the centre from Christmas until New Year and many of our retailers have fantastic sales, offering up to 60 per cent off some products."

Mr Young said due to demand by retailers, and customers, the centre would continue to lobby the government to lift the restrictions on centres in certain areas opening on Boxing Day.

Meanwhile Minister for Fair Trading Stuart Ayres has warned those hunting end-of-year bargains to shop smart.

"Last year we saw a 13.7 per cent increase in complaints involving refunds, from 4642 in 2011 to 5281 in 2012," Mr Ayres said. "Sales can be exciting and tempting but please don't get caught out with a lasting hangover."

Mr Ayres said customers should always read the store's return and refund policy before buying, as many stores do not offer unconditional refunds on sale items.

Online shoppers also needed to be aware of who they were dealing with; to shop around to compare price, function and capability, and to be wary of offers that appeared too good to be true.

The Insurance Council of Australia has also reminded householders to review and update their contents insurance to include Boxing Day bargains and Christmas presents, pointing out that crimes such as burglaries can spike over the summer holidays.

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