Retailers preparing for holiday shopping

·2 min read

It’s a question Canadian retailers are scratching their heads about: will the coronavirus steal their holiday spirit?

Turns out, the pandemic won’t exactly stop eager shoppers from checking off items on their holiday lists this year — COVID-19 will “just make things interestingly different,” according to a national survey by the Retail Council of Canada released today.

About half of all Canadian shoppers say their budgets will be lower than previous years by at least $100, with significant changes in the way they’re going to shop and what they’ll be buying. But most of them still plan on maintaining their habits about doing their shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Boxing Day in 2020.

And shopping local has become increasingly important for consumers across the country — with 90 per cent of shoppers saying buying from a domestic retailer is key, while 83 per cent say they’ll aim to buy products made in Canada.

“More than ever, we understand the critical role retail plays in helping keep our communities strong,” said Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council. “Canadians, in turn, are increasingly appreciating the role they can play in helping to support retailers and businesses in Canada during this pandemic.”

A large shift is being seen in the product categories people will focus on towards the holiday season. This year, more people will put their budgets towards personal electronics, care items and books than any year before, with spending on clothing and toys gradually declining. Still, almost a quarter of all shoppers will continue to put their budgets towards food, alcohol, candy and sweets.

Brisebois suggests a lot of that has to do with “pandemic realities,” which is also causing more people to gift themselves instead of buying for other people as a result of fewer gatherings. This year, self-gifting will account for more than a quarter of all shopping, with at least 41 per cent of people doing so because “they want to treat themselves,” according to the survey.

While the shift to online shopping is accelerating this year because of COVID-19, most people said they will still aim to shop in outlets. Declining by 14 per cent from 2019, 58 per cent of consumers said they will shop in-store. That’s compared to 42 per cent of people who said they will shop online.

Canadians are also showing concern about being able to get their purchases in time, with a quarter of them having already started their shopping in October. But while more people are researching before they shop because of the pandemic, fewer think it will be a challenge to find gifts this year than ever before.

“Retailers are doing everything they can to ensure Canadians have the products they want and are offering great promotions,” said Brisebois. “Consumers can confidently and safely begin their holiday shopping earlier this year.”

Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press