A new survey released Tuesday by Leger for the Retail Council of Canada — its second annual Holiday Shopping Survey — underlines the changing dynamics of retailing, but also shows that shoppers still want to go to the stores in person.
It shows Canadian consumers are all in on Black Friday (more Canadians intend to take advantage of bargains that day compared to the other shopping event days) and more people are shopping on-line.
The survey underlines a lot of things that retailers will not be surprised about especially when it comes to the Manitoba content — Manitobans intend to spend below the national average, we love deals and are more prepared than anyone else in the country to wait in line for them.
Reading between the lines, it also shows that bricks and mortar retailing has plenty of legs left in it.
"The retail brick-and-mortar apocalypse is a myth, but the fact that retail is transforming is not," said Michael Leblanc, senior retail advisor at the Retail Council of Canada (RCC).
He said what retailers might take away from the survey is that they can see a growing recognition of the importance of having a store that integrates multiple behaviours that consumer are engaged in.
"There is more e-commerce but e-commerce needs to be part of the store," Leblanc said. "What retailers are recognizing and building towards is not store channel vs on-line vs mobile. They see that it is important that they understand how best to serve the customer in whatever way they want to shop."
The survey shows that 72 per cent of Canadians still intend to spend the largest portion of their Christmas shopping budget in-store, but that number has decreased slightly from the year before. And those saying they will spend more on-line — 20 per cent this year — is more than it was last year.
"Retailers are all trying to figure out how the nature of retail is changing... on-line, off-line, mobile, event days themselves," Leblanc said. "The survey helps them understand what motivates people, what they are thinking about when they shop, what sort of things are they looking at."
The survey asked 2,500-plus people (just six per cent of them were from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which skews the survey's results) about their attitudes and intended behaviours regarding the upcoming 2019 holiday shopping season.
Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents plan to spend $588 this holiday season, significantly below the national average of $792. In comparison, Ontarians plan to spend $1,058 while Quebeckers plan to spend $503.
Just as was the case last year, Black Friday (which falls on Nov. 29 this year) has unseated Boxing Day as the day shoppers most intend to look for sales — 43 per cent on Black Friday compared to 34 per cent on Boxing Day.
Leblanc said that 10 years ago Black Friday was just starting to catch on in Canada. Now Canadian retailers are planning for it all year.
And when it comes to shoppers' dedication to a deal, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more committed than the rest of the country. The survey found that more people in the Prairies are willing to line up early on Black Friday, Boxing Day or Cyber Monday than anywhere else in the country (23 per cent vs. 17 per cent nationally).
But even though the day after American Thanksgiving has now usurped Boxing Day as Canadians' favourite shopping day it's not to say retailing in Canada has become Americanized.
The survey also found that a strong majority of Canadians (85 per cent) still agree that it’s important to buy from a retailer within Canada during the upcoming holiday shopping season.
Leblanc thinks it's not just about "buying Canadian".
"We know that consumers, for practical reasons and for other reasons, continue to want to spend their money here in their own back yard," he said. "I also think a contributing factor is that the retailers here are just as savvy and bring on great offers and great value."
People used to stream across the border in days gone by, looking for brands they just could not find in Canada. But that is less the case now.
"Something like 50 international retail brands have launched in Canada in just the last 18-to-24 months," said Leblanc. "Between that and e-commerce there is not much that you need to go outside Canada to shop for that you can’t find here."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.