‘Tis the season to spend less

Jon Davis is feeling the holiday pinch already.

“I've always been a seeker of low prices,” says Davis, a 36-year-old writer in Toronto. ”But now I find myself challenged… Those low prices are few and far between now.”

The shift in holiday spending habits and expectations is going to have a direct impact on business’s bottom lines.

Overall, consumer spending is expected to drop this year. Deloitte anticipates a 17% decrease in overall spending from 2021. This includes a 5% decrease in what people spent on gifts last year. While the RCC anticipates overall consumer spending on gifts to be close to the same as last year, there’s still reason to be cautious.

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Thought over price

Liz Crocker, owner and co-founder of Woozles childrens’ bookstore in Halifax, N.S., knows that the cost of the gift isn’t as important as finding the right gift.

“We have things from $1 to $100,” notes Crocker. “We will happily help them get the best book for each kid as they describe them.”

“Our core mission is to stimulate worlds of awe and wonder for children and the people who love them,” she says.

Davis appreciates this sentiment, “You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars, especially for small children, to make sure that they have an awesome holiday.”

Even though Canadians are focused on finding the perfect gift for their loved ones, they still expect to get a deal on it. Both the RCC and Deloitte found that consumers are expected to start their holiday shopping earlier this year in an attempt to find the best deals.

According to Deloitte 38% of consumers will go online to find coupons or to search for better prices. Similarly, Deloitte found that 27% of those surveyed will use price-monitoring services to help them find the best price.

Business as (un)usual

While consumers may expect to pay more, retailers anticipate more customers making purchases in person (compared to the last two years).

Deloitte notes that 51% of those surveyed prefer to make their purchases in-store, while the RCC puts this number at 67%. Moreso, Deloitte suggests that 55% of consumers surveyed want to support small or local businesses this holiday season, an increase of 2% from the previous year.

This sentiment is even stronger in Atlantic Canada. Among those surveyed, the number of people wanting to shop locally and support small businesses rose to an impressive 71%.

For Crocker, this will come as welcome news for her business.

“The pandemic took flexibility, and determination, and a degree of how to manage the work that needed to be done and the fear that people had,” she says.

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Shift to online purchases

Although there is more desire to shop in-person, Canadians still prefer online shopping. Deloitte’s consumer survey found that 71% of people surveyed are likely to shop at Amazon, an increase of 9% from 2021.

The RCC advises that it’s crucial for businesses to provide a seamless transition between in-store and online experiences in order to satisfy their clientele.

The team at Woozles has first-hand experience with being prepared for every eventuality. When the store was forced to close its doors due to the pandemic, their experience with online sales meant they were prepared.

“We had the platform and the technology and the capability,” said Crocker. “We were ready, we knew how to do it.”

This meant Woozles has been able to withstand the pressure put on smaller businesses by bigger online retailers like Amazon.

“My view has always been for us in the face of competition to understand what's at play, and to remind ourselves what unique services and capabilities we have to offer and make sure we're offering them,” Crocker says.

Setting expectations

While both the RCC and Deloitte found that consumers in the Atlantic provinces anticipate spending more than the national average, it’s important for retailers not to anticipate this for their bottom lines.

This is especially relevant if one considers that 52% of those surveyed in the Atlantic say their household income has decreased.

“We want to always be a place for and about children,” Crocker says. “And if we need to shrink our diet in a certain way in terms of managing our overhead expenses, we'll figure out how to do that.”

Davis keeps this at heart when considering gifts to give to the children in his life.

“The more creative you are with your gift giving,” he says “and the more thought and time you put into it... the more joy you will bring.”


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James Battiston Content Specialist

James Battiston has been writing personal finance articles for various websites for the past four years. He has a background in film and TV production, and can often be found consuming far too much coffee.

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