By Ethan Currie, Staff Writer
Snow is falling, temperatures are dropping, and Santa Claus is coming to town, meaning the festivities of Christmas are right around the corner. Despite the holidays’ emphasis on family celebration, and Mariah Carey’s modest gift list, the season has a tremendous financial impact; on individuals, small businesses, and the overall Canadian economy.
Every year, December highlights new changes and trends in consumer behaviour. With rapid e-commerce implementation, combined with a strong economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 is already a unique holiday season in Canada. As the advent calendar countdown begins, the nation-wide sales forecasts of over 6-million litres of eggnog, and 3-million turkeys sold is just the beginning of Canada’s Christmas craze.
Undeterred by holiday excitement, a study by CPA Canada projects spending in the country to be slightly down from the previous two years. The study revealed a forecasted spending level of $555 per Canadian on holiday gifts. This average decreased from $588 (-5.95%) in 2020, and $583 (-5.05%) in 2019. Related statistics also show that millennials are estimated to spend the most among other Canadian generations this season ($1.618 B CAD in total), despite lower-than-average income levels.
COVID-19 has made its mark on Christmas shopping in Canada as well. Participants in the same CPA Canada survey were divided on the pandemic’s impact. With 22% planning to spend less this holiday season, and 34% saying it has been easier to save for the holidays when compared to pre-pandemic years, Canadians have different outlooks on the issue.
It is no secret, however, that despite a pandemic’s influence, Canadians prefer to save money where they can. Fortunately, due to the plethora of holiday sales, this preference can be realized every Christmas season. Among the most notable shopping days every year, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day are home to some of the deepest discounts seen during the holidays. This year, 43% of Canadians planned to shop on Black Friday, 35% on Cyber Monday, and 34% on Boxing Day. These proportions are up from 41%, 34%, and 32% respectively in 2020.
As Canadians take advantage of great holiday deals, they also look to align their shopping preferences in a way that works best for them. As the e-commerce market continues to develop, a general trend of spending more online has taken form over the past few years. In fact, many stores are moving holiday promotions to an online environment, with Walmart releasing in-demand gaming consoles exclusively on their website to mitigate store traffic. Canadians are planning to spend 37% of their Christmas shopping budget online in 2021, which is up from 26% just three years prior, in 2018.
Despite a trend towards online shopping in recent years, Canadians are going against the current trend this year. As vaccination rates continue to increase, and Canada’s in-store pandemic restrictions are lifted, Canadian shoppers are feeling more comfortable, and excited about brick and mortar browsing. A 5% increase in Canadians who plan to do the majority of their gift purchases in-person demonstrates a slight reversal of the e-commerce trend, however the numbers do not quite resemble pre-pandemic shopping preferences. The online market will continue to have a growing impact on the holiday season, but this year, Canadians are ready to fill mall parking lots, and provide more in-person Christmas business once again.
Holiday purchasing behaviour is constantly evolving in Canada, and around the world. This Christmas season carries post-pandemic excitement, brings customers back into retail malls, and delivers hundreds of thousands of Amazon packages to the doorsteps of eager online shoppers.
As Canadians capitalize on seasonal sales, adjust spending budgets, and re-evaluate their personal shopping methods, this Christmas brings just as much financial snowfall as the last. As gifts get unwrapped, and stomachs become full, the Canadian retail market will find some time to get some well-needed rest… that is, until the Boxing Day sales are live.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all the best in 2022.