Holiday shopping behaviors evolve in Canada

2012-12-24 16:44:26 GMT2012-12-25 00:44:26(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

By Phoebe Ho

TORONTO, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Canadians are still struggling with the slow economic recovery, but that's not stopping people from splurging on their loved ones with increasing purchases completed online.

It's the season of gift-giving, and that's a tradition that'll never go away. Eric Matusiak, a consultant at Deloitte Canada's Retail practice, told Xinhua recently that while many Canadians have been more cautious in their spending over the last few years, the Christmas season is prompting more people to start opening up their wallets again.

"As we've slowly emerged from that recession, we have seen that I think people can't put off their purchases forever, so that means they are back shopping," he said.

A recent survey from Deloitte Canada finds that roughly 65 percent of Canadians plan on spending between one and 10 gifts this holiday season. And while the spending is nothing like the way it was before the recession, Matusiak said they're predicting a small growth in retail sales this year.

"Prior to 2008, people were shopping quite vigorously, so retail sales were typically up four to five percent year over year, " he said. " This year we're predicting maybe sales will be up one to two percent, so it's little bit less than previously."

Throughout the last week of Christmas, many Canadians and late shoppers scrambled to finish up their shopping list in time for the big day. Shoppers like Kelly Rendek, who was at the malls a few days before Christmas, said she's likely overspent her 500 to 800 Canadian dollar (about 503 to 805 U.S. dollars) budget.

"I actually haven't added it up, my guess is that it's actually more than that because you know you always buy these little things, you don't really add them all up," she said.

That same sentiment was echoed amongst a few other shoppers. Brandon Reece said he had to buy about 20 gifts in total. It's his first year setting a budget, but he's had a hard time sticking to it.

"You get into the spirit, your plans of sticking to a budget and being hard-nosed about it kind of dissipate as you hear the music and all that," he said.

While people are shopping again, Matusiak said it's not the same as it was before. One of the major differences are Canadian's shopping behaviors, directly influenced by technology.

People are no longer flocking to the malls for every purchase. The growing popularity of e-commerce means that people can do more research online, and have a much wider array of options at their fingertips.

Nicole Easton, a sales associate who's been working at Eaton Centre for years now at one of the busiest malls in the Canadian city of Toronto, said she's noticed a difference in the mall's traffic this holiday season.

"It's not as busy," she noted. "We don't actually offer online at our company, but a lot of people ask about that, 'cause it's in the comfort of their own home, and some people don't like the mall."

E-commerce is changing the game, said Matusiak. According to their survey, more Canadians are increasingly using mobile devices in part of their shopping process. That means people are going online to do their research, find promotions and coupons. But for now, the effect of that on retailers is still minimal, with e- commerce taking up one to two percent of retail sales. Matusiak stressed that while Canada's e-commerce has had a slower uptake compared to other countries, he sees that changing.

"I think we're going to see more and more growth of that online shopping," he said. "That's going to come, Canada is a bit behind as I said, but I think that's going to pick up."

With everyone embracing cross border shopping and e-commerce, retailers are facing much more competition than they used to. To bring back customers, Matusiak said more Canadian retailers are now trying different strategies. For example, they're using large LCD and plasma screens to give consumers a more interactive experience.

"So they're trying to bring that technology into the stores to give people a reason to come to the store," he said. "As a retailer, you still have a big investment in stores and you have to draw people in."

With roughly 40 percent of their total sales generated this time of year, according to Matusiak, this is a make or break quarter for many Canadian retailers.

Future Shop, Canada's largest consumer electronics retailer, is staying ahead of the game by keeping up with their clients. Laurent Trembley, an entertainment coordinator a one of their downtown locations, said they've recently expanded their e- commerce, offer price matching for consumers, and brought in a lot more products.

"Just trying to reach out to as many customers as we can is really helping, you know, gain that market share in Canada, keep customers shopping in Canada," he said.

Nearly 60 percent of Canadians report that they will use a combination of online, catalogue and store channels for holiday shopping to the same or greater extent as last year, according to the survey.

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