Retailers expect Canberra's cautious Christmas to continue into Boxing Day, even as thousands of customers flood into stores for bargains. The Australian National Retailers Association expected Christmas trade in the ACT to register a 4 per cent increase compared with last year, which meant shoppers were taking a conservative approach, the chief executive of ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andrew Blyth, said. ''I think we'll see more of the modest approach people have taken,'' he said. ''You'll always have people seasoned at finding bargains on Boxing Day willing to spend money, particularly on the staples.'' The caution reflects job cuts that potentially loom in the coming year for public servants and businesses linked to providing services to the federal government. ''Plus the loss of jobs has been under way for a while,'' Mr Blyth said. ''I think you'll see people putting a priority on the essentials and a priority on what Christmas is about.'' Shoppers across the country were expected to spend $30 billion this Christmas, and Mr Blyth said the average Canberran's spending would be higher than the national average of $1280 because of the territory's higher incomes. The association estimated Boxing Day would round off $527.8 million of Christmas spending in the ACT. It might seem like a big headline number, but a cashed-up city such as Canberra has done better in the past, observers say. Canberra Business Council chief executive Chris Faulks said she was surprised the bump in consumer confidence seen after the federal election had dropped again. ''Unemployment is weighing on people's minds and a fairly tough midyear economic and fiscal outlook dampened confidence,'' Ms Faulks said. ''Also, rising capital city house prices aren't really happening in Canberra.'' The final figures for Christmas retail trade, usually released after the decorations have been taken down from shopfronts, will be a strong indicator of how confident Canberra's consumers will be when it comes to spending going into the new year - a factor that will flow on to dictate business sentiment. Business confidence would be crucial in how Canberra progressed through the next couple of years, Ms Faulks said. Michele Black, who owns four stores in Manuka that sell products ranging from children's toys to towels and jewellery, said she was happy with the traffic through her shops, even though customers had appeared to delay the start of their Christmas shopping this year. Target's national managing director, Stuart Machin, said his stores would sell more than 250,000 pillows and 500,000 towels. About 1 million customers were expected in Myer stores on Boxing Day. Commonwealth Bank figures for the past month, released in the past week, show spending in general across the country appeared to be returning to levels seen before the global financial crisis. The bank's business sales indicator rose 0.5 per cent last month to record its 15th consecutive month of growth. The indicator is a strong measure of economy-wide spending, and tracks the value of credit and debit card transactions processed through Commonwealth Bank's point-of-sale terminals.