Holidays 2021: Canadians Will Shop Earlier and Spend More (Stats)

TORONTO, Oct. 21, 2021 /CNW/ – Retail Council of Canada’s (RCC) 4th annual Holiday Shopping Survey of over 2,500 Canadians from coast to coast shows that while COVID continues to impact our lives, people have adapted well and are looking forward to returning to their pre-pandemic holiday traditions wherever possible: in-person celebrations, shopping at brick-and-mortar stores, and, more gift giving.

Unlike last year, when the uncertainty of the pandemic made Canadians less structured in their approach to holiday planning, this year they are likely to spend more than last year. Last year Canadians planned to spend $693; in 2021 they plan to spend $792. Given historical information that consumers’ actual spending is more than they plan, actual spend in 2021 could be more than $800. Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents say they faced challenges last year due to items being out of stock, long delivery times and shipping delays. This will motivate them to start shopping earlier this year or to shop in local stores.

More consumers this year are also planning to take advantage of holiday shopping sales than they have previously. Black Friday is expected to be one of, if not the biggest, shopping days of the year.

Product categories Canadians plan to spend the biggest portion of their budget on are clothing (which has moved into the top spot in 2021 from second in 2020), food, (which has moved down from first spot in 2020 into second spot this year), toys, and personal electronics. They are also looking forward to shopping more in physical stores and buying from a broader mix of retailers.

“Canadians are ready to put the disruption of COVID behind them and are looking forward to returning to brick-and-mortar stores,” says Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada. “Nevertheless, they are buying differently than they were prior to the pandemic. While it is expected that there will be more in-store buying this year, the blend between physical and online shopping will continue to evolve and consumers expect to have more choices in how and where the products they purchase are picked up and delivered. Additionally, with the removal of some of the more restrictive COVID mitigation measures, consumers will need extra assurances that physical distancing and other safety measures will be maintained so that they can enjoy the products, promotions, and unique festive experiences retailers will be offering.”

Supply chain issues facing consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers have been widely reported around the world. As a result, it is anticipated that retail availability of certain items may be tighter than in years past, particularly in late November and December. Consumers that plan ahead and shop early will increase their chances of finding the products and brands they want for the holiday season. And, with expected labour shortages, shopping early will allow consumers to avoid long line-ups or shipping/delivery delays.


Canadians are planning to begin shopping earlier and more are planning to take advantage of holiday sales and product availability.

  • 30% (vs 23% in 2020) plan to begin shopping before November.
    • Product (availability, shipping time, delivery times) and product selection issues experienced in 2020 are driving an earlier planned start to holiday shopping.
  • November will remain the busiest shopping month.
    • 36% of consumers plan to begin their 2021 holiday shopping in November.
  • 43% (vs 41% in 2020) plan to shop on Black Friday, 35% (vs 34% in 2020) plan to shop on Cyber Monday and 34% (vs 32% in 2020) plan to shop on Boxing Day.

Holiday spending intentions are higher than last year.

Canadians are planning to spend $792 (vs $693 in 2020), largely driven because the negative financial impacts of the pandemic have dropped significantly, and they are planning more get-togethers this season.

Looking at historical actual holiday spending patterns, it is projected that actual spend this year could exceed $800.

In-store shopping will increase but online will continue to be strong, emphasizing once again the importance for retailers to provide seamless experiences across their selling channels.

63% (vs 58% in 2020) of total purchases are expected to be in store this year and 37% (vs 42% in 2020) will be online.

Pre-pandemic in 2019, 72% of total purchases were planned to be in-store and 28% online.

Supporting local retailers continues to be important to Canadians.

78% feel it is important to shop locally, with 81% of those respondents saying it is especially important to support local retailers that have suffered due to lockdowns.

Product categories that Canadians will spend the most on have shifted, with clothing taking top spot this year, surpassing food, alcohol, and candy that has dropped to second spot.

Top categories are:

  1. Clothing (16% vs 15% in 2020)
  2. Food, alcohol, candies or sweets for entertaining (12% vs 19% in 2020)
  3. Toys (10% vs 10% in 2020)
  4. Personal electronics (8% vs 8% in 2020)


  • Concerns have shifted since last year on all aspects of holiday shopping. This year the top concerns are that stores will be crowded (44% vs 38% in 2020) and that popular products will be overpriced (44% vs 35% in 2020).
  • Holiday sales and promotions (50%) and free shipping (49%) have the most influence on where Canadians will choose to shop.
  • More Canadians are planning on purchasing gifts for others this year (80% vs 74% in 2020).
  • Gift cards will likely account for 16% (vs 21% in 2020) of Canadians’ holiday spending budgets in 2021.
  • In 2020 most gift cards were bought from restaurants and bars, followed by big box retailers.
  • The mix of retailers consumers intend to shop with will likely be broader in 2021. Most significant differences include:
    • Big box (53% vs 46% in 2020)
    • Clothing (46% vs 36% in 2020)
    • Food beverage and grocery (35% vs 42% in 2020)
    • Toys and games (34% vs 29%)
    • Department stores (30% vs 25% in 2020)
    • Electronics (29% vs 24% in 2020)
    • Sporting, hobby and music (24% vs 19% in 2020)
    • Home furnishing 7% vs 6% in 2020)


Ontario: Ontarians are estimating that they will spend $863 this holiday season vs the national average of $792.

Quebec: While fewer Quebecers report that their financial wellbeing has been impacted by the pandemic, they are also planning to spend the least this holiday, $565 vs the national average of $792, and are more likely to spend on themselves during the holiday vs the rest of Canada. Quebecers are also more likely to shop at toy and games retailers. Quebecers are less likely to shop on Boxing Day (24% vs 34% in the rest of Canada). Quebecers have historically been less likely to plan and set budgets ahead of time for holiday spending.

Atlantic: While Maritimers’ planned spending is at $807 vs the national average of $792, they also plan to spend more on gifts for others (vs themselves) at 84% vs the national average of 80%.

Manitoba / Saskatchewan: The estimated average spend is $692 vs the national average of $792. They also say they will spend more on gifts for others (vs themselves) at 83% vs the national average of 80%.

Alberta: Albertans estimate they plan to spend $869 this year vs the national average of $792.

British Columbia: On average, respondents in BC plan to spend $958 vs the national average of $792.

About the Survey

The comprehensive 155-page survey was conducted for Retail Council of Canada by Leger and covers Canadians’ perceptions on how the pandemic has affected their financial wellbeing, when, where, and how they plan to shop, what they plan to buy, how promotions are affecting their purchase decisions, and general sentiment about holiday shopping. The report also reviews how these planned shopping behaviours vary by category and region across the country. The survey was conducted online between August 12, 2021 and August 24, 2021 in both English and French with a sample size of 2,505 and a nationally representative sample to the Canadian population of 18+. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Full Survey

About Retail Council of Canada

Retail is Canada’s largest private sector employer. Retail Council of Canada (RCC) members represent more than two thirds of retail sales in the country. RCC is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association that represents small, medium and large retail businesses in every community across the country. As the Voice of Retail™ in Canada, we proudly represent more than 45,000 storefronts in all retail formats, including department, grocery, specialty, discount, independent retailers and online merchants.

SOURCE Retail Council of Canada
CONTACT: For more information or to schedule media interviews, contact: Michelle Wasylyshen at

You may also be interested in reading:
The Pandemic Behaviour of Online Canadians (Infographic)
Data Reveals What’s Most Important to Online Canadian Consumers
Canadian Online Spending Up By $2B, Totaling $5.5B Per Month


DISCLOSURE: We may receive compensation for links to products on this website. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Our content is provided for informational purposes only and does not guarantee results.

COMMENTS ARE MODERATED – Legitimate comments will be published after a short delay. Spam will not be published.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments