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Holiday Gift Buying - Are Canadians ready to spend?

By Linda Plater |

With the holidays just around the corner, Canadian retailers wonder what to expect from shoppers this year. The good news is that retailers in all provinces except for Quebec can expect to see increases in spending according to several consumer shopping surveys released this week. "Quebecers will be keeping their holiday spending in check this year, with gift-givers planning to spend an average of $461 on their holiday gift purchases, well below the $640 national average," according to an RBC survey. Last year spenders in that province topped the country with 28 per cent spending more than planned.

In the rest of Canada consumer spending is full steam ahead.  Overall, Canadians are showing no signs of tightening their wallets, good news for retailers. The TD Canada Trust Holiday Poll reveals that Canadians are planning to spend an average of $1,100 on food, gifts and entertainment this holiday season, in other words seven-in-ten Canadians say they won't be reducing their holiday spending despite the economic climate.

Canadian gift-givers are planning to spend an average of $640 on gifts - up from $624 last year spending on average $100 more than last year ($612 compared to $512) on other holiday items (entertainment, decorations, travel, etc.) And Atlantic Canadians are the most likely to spend more this season, up to an average of $1,374, while Quebecers are the most conservative at $900. The RBC survey also reveals that gift-giving in the Atlantic provinces is projected at an average of $877 which is over their 2010 spending intentions of $798 and well above the 2011 national average of $640.

What Tops the Wish List and Who is Making the Purchases?

An Angus Reid survey for Best Buy, shows that moms dominate shopping for technology gifts this year. Many are looking at gadgets, e-readers, entertainment software and tablets for themselves too. In fact, 76 per cent of moms say they are confident and knowledgeable when it comes to making the right decisions about technology for themselves and their family members, and are involved in shopping for their kids' consumer technology gifts 80 per cent of the time.

E-commerce and Online Shopping

Canadian retailers not engaged in e-commerce should take note that online sales are on the rise.  An October 2011 Google Analytics report on Canada-only e-commerce platform for retail businesses shows that monthly sales growth is up 144.81% over the same period last year.  Clearly, the online sales channel is a worthwhile place to do business.

No Shopping at Work!

According to a recent Robert Half Technology survey of chief information officers (CIOs) 57 per cent of those interviewed said their companies block access to online shopping sites - up from 40 per cent surveyed last year. Another 30 per cent said they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use, and 12 per cent said they allow unrestricted access.  The research signals that employers are discouraging employee shopping during work hours.  Nevertheless, some CIOs whose firms allow online shopping said they expect employees to spend two hours per week, on average, surfing for deals this holiday season.

The Wrap Up

Consumer spending appears to be slightly up for 2011, a positive indication that people are committed to holiday purchasing right across Canada.  Buying online or in line at the shopping mall, Canadians are ramping up their holiday spirit and retailers can expect 2011 to be another prosperous year. 

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