Shoppers cash-strapped, cranky this season

November 24, 2008
Written by Maritz Research Canada
This year two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadians plan to spend their holiday dollars at Wal-Mart, with Canadian Tire and Zellers coming in second and third place with 51 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. According to a recent holiday retail survey conducted by Maritz Research Canada, Canadians plan to spend 14 per cent less than last year from an average reported spend of $663 in 2007 to an average planned spend of $571 for the 2008 holiday season. And, 70 per cent of Canadians say they will use cash (including debit cards) to pay for purchases.

More than two thousand people responded to the online survey and the current economic climate had a clear impact on their responses. Overall, those planning to decrease their holiday spend include women generally, Ontario and Atlantic Canada provinces, students, and those with household incomes of less than $100K.

"This year, the consumer mood is changing and as a result retailers are facing fiercer competition for a smaller pool of spending dollars," said Robert Daniel, Managing Director Maritz Research Canada. "With a reduced budget, shoppers will be less tolerant and retailers are going to have to do more to make sure customers feel they have a good experience; customer retention is key and retailers are going to have to assess how they can do more to delight and surprise their customers in order to keep them in the store and purchasing."

What can retailers do to ensure a positive shopping experience?

According to the survey findings, sales and special holiday offers is
the most important improvement retailers could make to enhance the holiday shopping experience.

 Top Improvements Retailers Can Make
Percentage of Respondents Indicating Importance
 Offer sales and special holiday offers
 65 per cent
 Ensure stocked inventory to meet demands
 63 per cent
 Staff stores to ensure enough associates are working through the holidays
 56 per cent
 Extend store hours and be open on key dates during the holidays
 41 per cent

"There are many approaches retailers can take to prepare for a positive shopping experience this holiday season," added Daniel. "Some things retailers can do include getting the pricing equation right, reducing wait times, ensuring the check-out process is well designed and investing in training employees whose direct contact with the shopper impacts the customer's overall experience."

Where do Canadians plan to shop this holiday season?

Canadians have indicated that Wal-Mart is the number one go-to store for holiday shopping this year.

 Percentage of Respondents Planning to Shop at the Store During the Holiday Season
 Wal-Mart  66 per cent
 Canadian Tire
 51 per cent
 40 per cent
 Future Shop
 35 per cent
 Sears Canada
 33 per cent
 Chapters/Indigo  28 per cent
 Shoppers Drug Mart
 25 per cent
 Best Buy
 19 per cent
 The Bay
 17 per cent
 Winners  16 per cent

What do Canadians plan to buy?

According to the Maritz Research survey, entertainment and electronics topped the list of gift-giving with 57 per cent and 43 per cent respectively of Canadians planning to purchase these items. The top ten holiday gift categories for 2008 are as follows:

The type of gift Canadians plan to purchase
 The percentage of Canadians planning to buy this type of gift item
 Entertainment  57 per cent
 43 per cent
 41 per cent
 Gift Certificates
 39 per cent
 Health, Beauty of Personal Care Products
 37 per cent
 Apparel  35 per cent
 Candies or Chocolates
 29 per cent
 Beer, Wine or Spirits
 26 per cent
 Children's Apparel
 25 per cent
 Hobbies & Other Specialty Goods
 24 per cent

How do we plan to pay for it?

Cash is the preferred method of payment. Intention to pay for gifts with cash this holiday season has increased since 2007 with 70 per cent of Canadians favouring paying up front (as opposed to buying on credit) - up 6 per cent compared with 64 per cent of respondents last year.

"In a slowing economy Canadians are tightening their wallets; by telling us they intend to pay for more purchases with cash, consumers are indicating they recognize the need to be more careful about personal debt," said Daniel. "This is another indication that the consumer mood is changing and consequently retailers and credit card companies will also need to assess how to retain customers through superior experiences."

This online Maritz Poll, which was conducted October - November 2008, featured responses from 2,072 randomly selected adults from an Internet panel survey on topics related to holiday shopping, buying behaviors and gift-giving trends. To ensure the data was representative of the Canadian population, data was weighted to Statistics Canada data for several demographic categories including gender, province and age.

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