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Canadians’ holiday budgets to ring in at nearly $900: Survey

RCC and Leger poll finds a jump in projected holiday spend, as consumers recognize goods cost more

The price of everything may be up, but Canadians aren’t saying ‘bah humbug’ to holiday shopping. That’s according to the sixth annual Holiday Shopping Survey by Retail Council of Canada (RCC) and Leger, which polled more than 2,500 Canadians from coast to coast. 

Displaying what the researchers call “a resilient spirit,” Canadians are projected to spend an average of $898 this holiday season, up from last year’s $782 expenditure. Most of the holiday budget – 80% – will go towards gifts for others. 

On a recent webinar discussing the results, Luc Dumont, vice-presidents of insights at Leger, said while there is going to be an uptick, there’s a difference in how the researchers think about the increase. “In previous years… before we really started to feel in a big way the impacts of inflation, we presented these numbers as ‘this is how much people want to spend. This is what they are putting aside for the holidays,’” said Dumont.

READ: Canadians are ready to celebrate the holiday season. Here’s how grocers can help

This year, there’s the sense that people have to spend this amount because they recognize that things are going to cost more, he added. 

Where are holiday dollars going? Category-wise, clothing is at the top, constituting 17% of the planned spend. That’s followed by home-entertaining essentials, like food, alcohol, candies and sweets (16%); toys and games (11%); and hobbies, books and music (9%). 

“(The results) seems to indicate that people are not willing to give up certain things, and they recognize that in order to have their family get-togethers… those things are going to cost more and they’re going to spend more for that,” said Dumont. 

Amid today’s tough economic climate, however, holiday shoppers will try to stretch their budgets. The survey found that 88% of Canadians are turning to proactive holiday shopping tactics, including looking for deals and sales (52%), planning early and comparing prices (41%), and setting a budget (40%). In addition, 33% plan to use rewards programs to offset costs and 28% will shop at discount retailers more than previously. 

READ: Canadians plan to cut back on holiday spending, shop around for deals

When it comes to where Canadians will shop, big-box retailers are the frontrunner (56%), followed by food and beverage retailers, including grocery (46%), clothing retailers (46%), and foodservice establishments (36%). 

Experiences that will entice Canadians most to visit retailers’ stores during the holiday season include exclusive promotions (48%); value bundles such as “buy one, get one” (26%); special product samples and tastings (25%); and festive, uplifting seasonal décor or ambiance (18%). In the online world, shoppers will be enticed by special promotions, for example, free shipping (60%), exclusive online products (33%) and extended return/exchange policies (33%). 

Gift cards will be a hot item this year, with 45% of shoppers planning to buy gift cards for others. 

More than a third of Canadians (37%) expressed a preference for receiving gift cards over traditional presents, up from 32% last year. Dining gift cards top the charts (42%), followed by big-box retailers (33%) and food retailers (27%). 

Supporting local businesses this holiday has seen an increase as well, with 82% of Canadians highlighting its importance, up from 74% last year.

READ: How grocers can maintain momentum in centre store

The survey also looked at how Canadians get inspiration for gift ideas. Aside from what friends and family say they want (55%), shoppers are most inspired by products seen in store (40%), flyers (34%), social media (28%), and retailers’ websites (27%). 

“(The results show) being in the store, having that festive ambiance, and seeing the products well displayed and displayed in a way that is enticing is still very important, so focus on that,” advised Dumont, noting another study on key drivers showed that people who are impulsive and like to shop in stores tend to spend more. “So, you have to tap into that and make sure that you’re creating an environment that allows them to pick up little things all around them.” 

Michael LeBlanc, senior retail advisor at RCC, observed that in addition to the store environment – whether it’s great displays or innovative products – well-trained employees can play a role. “When I walk into stores and I’m looking for inspiration, I’m looking to talk to associates,” he said. 

LeBlanc also summarized the table stakes for retailers this holiday season: “great price, great returns policies, maybe free shipping and promotions that are very attractive.” 

The full report is available for RCC members here

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