HOMEWARES and electrical items were at the top of the shopping list for many Bendigo bargain hunters as they hit the Boxing Day sales.
Be.Bendigo interim chief executive Rob Stephenson said good crowd numbers were turning out to the local shops, in a sign many had postponed annual beach getaways.
"It was very busy in the lead up to Christmas - you could see that from the parking situation around Bendigo,'' he said.
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"And the shopping centres were busy again yesterday. A lot of people were also buying things for DIY projects, which is a good indicator that people are choosing to stay home. There is still some reluctance to travel."
Mr Stephenson said many shoppers were cashing in vouchers from a retail pilot program aimed at supporting small Bendigo traders in the post-COVID-19 lockdown era.
"A lot of employers who usually give staff bonuses and thank you gifts from major retailers instead gave the Love Your Local Reward Vouchers,'' he said. "We issued $10,000 of them and we got a lot handed in during the week before Christmas and they're continuing to be spent."
Generous Bendigo residents also donated a further $16,000 to the Bendigo Health Christmas Appeal in the past four days. The appeal tally jumped from $66,000 to $82,000 between Thursday and Monday, as many heeded the call to buy last minute gift cards for loved ones to support the cause.
Australian Hotels Association Bendigo spokesman Ray Sharawara said people were holidaying in Bendigo to avoid crowded major cities.
"There are a lot of people visiting right now and at the same time, people who live here are very apprehensive about leaving to travel,'' he said.
"I'm hearing a lot of people say they planned to go north but are cancelling it because they're worried about being caught up in changing restrictions if they leave the state."
Mr Sharawara said the cancellation of more than 80 domestic flights at Sydney airport on Christmas Eve due to a COVID-exposure had further discouraged travellers.
"People want to stay in Victoria and the rescheduling of events like the Blues and Roots Festival and the Beer Festival are very welcome news for us. The forward bookings for January and February are much higher than they usually are."
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