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Growing signs of a demand-fuelled retail recovery on the horizon

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 12:00:00 PM

- Canadians expect to increase their individual holiday spending by 29%, an average of $1,420.
- Millennials are projected to be the highest-spending generation this holiday season at $1,618.
- 59% are more likely to shop at retailers that restrict admission to those with a proof of vaccination.
- Canadians expect to spend more time shopping online, rather than in-store (51% vs. 49%).
- 27% say their holiday shopping will be influenced by ads on TikTok, up from 17% last year. -

Canadian consumers' needs and behaviours are evolving. In this year's edition of PwC's Canadian holiday outlook, their annual survey of consumer holiday spending predictions,, consumers indicate an improvement with their personal finances, growing economic confidence, and plans to significantly increase their holiday spending. In fact, Canadians expect to increase their individual holiday spending by 29% over last year, with an average outlay of $1,420. This spending is still 11% below pre-pandemic levels (2019), and predominantly due to the slow return of travel. Additionally, Millennials take the lead in the highest-spending generation at $1,618 (Gen Z: $1,178, Gen X: $1,452, Baby Boomers: $1,373 Greatest Generation: $1,011). Broadly speaking, Canadians plan to open their wallets wider this holiday season compared to 2020.

"It's been a trying time for Canadians, with school closures, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions, Canadians are yearning to treat themselves and are seeking enjoyable experiences," said Myles Gooding, National Consumer Markets Leader & Global Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC Canada. "The data from the 2021 PwC Canada Holiday Outlook shows that consumers plan to spend approximately half their holiday shopping time in physical stores (49%). Retailers can benefit from differentiating themselves by creating exceptional in-store offerings that allow consumers to witness a seamless in-person and digital experience."

Evolving spending habits of Canadian consumers

Data from PwC's 2020 Canadian holiday outlook indicated that consumers were adapting to lifestyle changes amid all the uncertainty that the pandemic presented. The Canadian consumer profile last year was concerned about the pandemic, job losses and reduced work hours which in turn decreased personal spending capabilities. Now, in 2021 the pandemic concerns are still prevalent however, there is improvement with Canadian's personal finances and growing confidence in the economy.

2019: Canadian consumers expect to spend an average of $1,593 over the holidays
2020: Per-person holiday spending intentions drop by nearly one-third to an average of $1,104
2021: Holiday spending intentions rebound to an average of $1,420, up 29% over last year

"Canadian retailers had to quickly adapt their business plans and accelerate their digital transformations over the last 18 months. The pandemic tested many retailers but also allowed for a period of experimentation regarding delivery methods, technologies and sales strategies. Retailers have shown great resilience in the face of unforeseen challenges ," said Diane Brisebois President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada. "At last, we see an economic rebound and retailers are prepared and now better positioned to tailor to the changing needs and behaviours of the Canadian consumer, from increased in-store holiday spending to home delivery or curbside pickup."

Savings, health and safety impacting shopping behaviours

This year, Canadians who regularly or occasionally opt for curbside pickup jumped from 33% in 2020 to 50%. Although retailers offered curbside pickup as a COVID-19 safety measure, 45% of consumers say price considerations motivate them to pick up their orders themselves. Only 8% say physical distancing is a primary factor.

- 59% say they would be more likely to shop at a retailer that restricts admission to customers who can show proof of vaccination

Retailers can benefit from blurring the lines between digital and in-person experiences. For example, consumers can browse merchandise in-person and then place the order online, or vice versa. Sophisticated and new technologies that enable a harmonious omni-channel interaction can create consumer loyalty.

Trust, growing influences on consumer choices

Three-quarters of respondents say they are likely or extremely likely to shop with brands or retailers that are trustworthy this holiday season. Additionally, 62% say they anticipate they'll shop at retailers offering Canadian-made products. Canadians are looking for quality products and positive experiences between themselves and brands. To build trust, retailers can do so by offering transparent and traceable measures such as digital processes that allow customers to track the location of their purchases and gain visibility into the last-mile delivery process.

Shaping consumer choices is also coming from social media and digital influencer marketing. TikTok, is growing in significance although still overshadowed by Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. In fact, 27% of respondents say their holiday shopping will be influenced by ads on TikTok, up from 17% last year.

Canadian consumers' anticipated holiday spending is on the rise as well as their confidence in the economy. Retailers that continue to adapt to the growing needs of shoppers have an opportunity to be positioned at the centre of the industry's recovery.

PwC prepared the 2021 holiday spending forecast to equip retailers with insights into consumer sentiments as they navigate the uneven economic recovery and meet the needs of a new consumer persona. PwC's annual Holiday Outlook report surveyed over 1,160 Canadians' evolving shopping habits, preferences and priorities in August 2021.

SOURCE: PwC Management Services LP