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10/01/2021

Costco, chips and chocolate: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Field Agent’s new holiday spending report says consumers will be keen to spend after a year of no get-togethers
Canadians are ready to spend on the holidays this year, according to Field Agent research. (Shutterstock/Rawpixel

After having their 2020 plans “stifled” because of the pandemic, one-third of Canadians say they plan to spend more on groceries this coming holiday season, according to a new report from research film Field Agent.

Along with gifts and get-togethers, grocery comprises one of the “three G’s” of holiday spending, with Field Agent saying it will be where the most “drastic” changes in consumer spending will happen this year.

“People want to celebrate, and they’re planning to be more festive and get together more often—all of which will be positive for the grocery industry,” says Field Agent Canada general manager Jeff Doucette. “People will be spending more on groceries because there’s going to be more entertaining happening.”

Asked to identify the grocery retailers where they planned to purchase most of their holiday food, snacks, etc., 63% of respondents said Costco. That placed the big-box giant just ahead of Walmart (62%) and Loblaws’ discount banners (45%).

“It’s just continuing this momentum that Costco has right now,” says Doucette. “It seems like that Costco trip has become engrained behaviour and people see it as a grocery store. They don’t just see it as a big-box store where you buy tires.”

Doucette said the combination of quality and price had helped propel the big-box store to the top of consumers’ consideration set, with rising food prices also steering customers toward the retailer. “People are really starting to be much more sensitive to the price of food in general, and if they can save on a bigger portion of their basket, I think they’re going to do that,” he said.

Amazon ranked fourth, with 28% of respondents indicating they would buy from the online giant. It wasn’t all good news for Jeff Bezos’s company, however, as just 1% of respondents indicated they would purchase most of their holiday food items from Whole Foods.

And in a sign of just how entrenched online grocery has become since the start of the pandemic, 10% of respondents said they would use grocery pick-up more this year (4% said they would use it less).

Online shopping has become engrained behaviour over the past year-and-a-half, says Doucette, and shoppers are unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic habits. “It’s not going away,” he says. “Online shopping is really sticky, and people will continue to use it.”

Asked to identify the food products they plan to serve at their holiday gatherings, 78% of respondents indicated they planned to serve chips on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, ahead of chocolate/candy (74%) and soda/pop at (72%).

Fruit is the first fresh good to appear on the list, with just over half of respondents (52%) indicating they will serve it at their holiday get-together. Thirty per cent of respondents indicated they planned to serve “pumpkin spice anything,” suggesting that the pumpkin spice craze is no longer limited to the fall.