2012 Canadian Holiday Shopping Statistics and E-commerce Tips

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and the Bank of Montreal (BMO) have released Canadian holiday shopping survey statistics, adding their predictions to those made earlier by Ernst & Young and Deloitte.   While they don’t all agree on the level of frugality this season, it’s clear that it won’t be the most profitable holiday for merchants.  There are ways Canadian online businesses can benefit from shoppers’ frugal frame of mind, however.

It Depends on Who you Ask

Ernst & Young expects 2012 holiday sales to increase by 3.5% over last year, based on indications of improved Canadian consumer confidence.  Deloitte tempers that figure with a predicted 1-2% increase.

The Bank of Montreal’s Holiday Spending Outlook reports that Canadians expect to spend an average of $1,610 this holiday season, $213 more than in 2011. Most of that will be spent on gifts ($674), and the rest on entertainment and travel.

RBC found that Canadians intend to spend $1,182 in total on gifts, entertainment, decorations, and travel, down 6% from last year. Their survey said the average Canadian will spend $629 on gifts and 10% less than last year on other holiday expenses.

Shopping Smarter with the Web

Canadians will be doing a lot of price comparisons this year and that begins online, according to Deloitte.  31% will be using the Web to look for discounts, coupons and sales information.  Surprisingly, those with an annual income above $100,000 are most likely to check prices online.  Over 55% of Canadians plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping on the Internet, and that number climbs up to 68% in some cities.

It isn’t only finances that encourage online shopping in Canada. The price of gas may encourage online shopping and discourage shopping trips to the US.  Time is also a precious commodity, with Canadians working multiple jobs and overtime to pay Christmas expenses.  Avoiding long lines in stores and at the border makes online shopping a quicker, easier option.

2012 Canadian Holiday Shopping Statistics and E-commerce TipsWhat are Canadian Shoppers Buying?

According to Deloitte, 65% of Canadians will purchase between one to ten gifts this holiday season.

The top gift choices are:

  1. Gift cards/money
  2. Clothing
  3. Toys
  4. Books
  5. Food or alcohol
  6. Technology
  7. Other
  8. Health & beauty

Pick Me!

The D&T Holiday Mood 2012 survey indicates that consumers find the following retailer attributes most appealing:

  1. Lowest prices
  2. Largest selection
  3. Brands
  4. Exceptional customer service
  5. Loyalty programs
  6. Personalized offers and promotions
  7. Multichannel (in-store, online, mobile, etc.) shopping experience

Price is a stronger driving force behind clicking the checkout button than ever before.  “With a growing number of consumers turning to the web for product and price research, retailers need to offer outstanding value. The lowest price has become table stakes.” Kim MacDonald, Deloitte Retail Senior Sector Specialist states in their report.

Canadians need to be competitive, but there are other ways we can win online sales:

  • Ask yourself how you can help rather than how you can sell.
  • Give shoppers a reason to purchase from you, with a focus on unique merchandise, Canadian products, selection, competitive pricing & coupons.
  • Show off your corporate responsibility by featuring fair trade, child-free labour, and environmentally friendly products and practices. Ethics are important to Canadian shoppers.  For example, a 2013 Ipsos World Vision survey indicated 89% of Canadians would pay more for a product if it was guaranteed children were not exploited to make it.
  • Offer gift cards or digital certificates.
  • Offer free or flat-rate shipping.  Remind shoppers that shopping in Canada means faster arrival of shipments and no surprise duty, tax or brokerage fees when the item arrives.
  • Facilitate purchasing with secure, smooth transactions, and a mobile-friendly website.
  • Get out there and network with shoppers through blogging and social media.  Establish your brand on the latest social networks like Pinterest and find creative ways to subtly promote your products. Compared to other social networks, Pinterest referrals are 10% more likely to complete an online purchase, according to Mashable.com.

It will take effort and ingenuity to win sales in this economy, but web-based businesses (and stores that have online ordering) are better positioned than most.  We wish you a lucrative holiday season!

Bank of Montreal
Royal Bank of Canada
Ernst & Young

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
The Holiday Season Begins NOW for Online B2B & B2C Sales [Tips]
Canadian E-Commerce Sales Growth Will Outpace US [Statistics]


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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I don’t know how you manage to track this stuff. It must be a lot of work and I apprecieate it.


Thanks for gathering the Canadian information, you saved me hours of research.


I truly appreciate the Canadian slant of this ecommerce website and the talent behind it. Keep it coming!

Axel Kuhn

Excellent post, Melody! I love the focus on how retailers can get innovative and actually add value/ differentiate themselves beyond price. “Price-matching” is not a long-term, sustainable strategy for Canadian Retailers (both online and offline).

I’ve piggybacked on your post with this post: http://ebusinessconsultants.ca/2012/11/ecommerce-strategy-in-canada-wheres-the-innovation/

John Skelton

A very useful and concise summary. Thank you for sharing. Having enjoyed some personal success in on-line shopping (goods delivered quickly, in perfect condition, great prices and wide selection), I cannot imagine why consumers continue to want to fight the December mall crowds. A visit or two the the mall to experience the mayhem is enough for me!


I’m doing ALL of my shopping online this year and I’d love to find Canadian businesses.


It might be a fight to the death for shopping dollars this year but I thinnk you’re right, it can be done with determination.