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2017 Canadian holiday outlook

The holiday season is almost upon us, bringing with it lots of shopping but also a host of interesting trends. Where and when will consumers shop? What type of gifts will they buy? What drives their purchasing decisions? How are retailers preparing for the season?

Our analysis explores the likely shopping behaviours retailers need to be aware of over the next few months, based on what over 1,000 Canadian consumers told us in a national survey. Scroll down to learn what’s trending for the 2017 holiday shopping season.

Big budget season

How much will Canadians spend this holiday season?

Over two thirds of consumers believe the economy will remain steady or perform better over the next six months, and half are expecting product prices to be higher than last year. Canadian consumers are planning to spend the same or more than last year—an average of CA$1,507 each, which is slightly higher than their US counterparts.

Mature Gen Z (18–21 years old) and millennial parents anticipate the biggest jump in their spending, with a 48% and 43% increase respectively. Retailers focused on delivering coordinated and unique experiences across different demographics will thrive.

Eight out of ten consumers plan to spend the same or more this holiday season

Half of consumers expect product prices to be higher than last year

The Canadian holiday wish list

The majority of Canadian consumers’ money will go to travel for the holidays and gifts, with a small amount intended for entertainment. And they will put family first, spending the most on family members but still making sure they treat themselves.

Almost half of consumers (42%) would like to receive gift cards this holiday season, but when it comes to giving, 46% are planning on buying physical gifts. The top physical items Canadians plan to purchase are apparel, toys, personal electronics and alcohol.

Focusing on these shopping trends and turning these insights into actions—such as providing the right mix of physical items in-store—will allow retailers to generate greater loyalty and a more satisfying shopping experience.

What will Canadians spend their money on?

Canadians know how to celebrate the holiday season...

Price is king

What’s influencing Canadians’ spending decisions?

No surprises here. Price is still the major factor when making purchasing decisions. Canadian consumers want good deals, more promotions and free shipping.

While price is king, a sense of community is still important to Canadians. A total of 58% of consumers plan to shop with local/independent retailers this holiday season. Other factors, like social and environmental responsibility and health and wellness, are also likely to attract Canadian consumers, especially Gen Z and young millennials.

Retailers should be thinking about offerings and experiences that combine community, price and variety if they’re going to meet consumer expectations this holiday season.

Over half of consumers plan to shop with local/independent retailers this holiday season...

More channels, more convenience... more spending

How are consumers doing their holiday shopping?

Canadians plan to carry out almost two thirds (62%) of their holiday shopping in-store, but for the remaining one third of their purchases, they’ll choose to shop online. For the online shopper, Amazon is by far the top choice this holiday season, with 77% of Canadians planning to shop at the world’s largest online retailer.

But those consumers shopping across multiple channels are the ones who will spend more. For that reason, retailers need to provide a convenient, omni-channel environment that aims to satisfy those shopping habits.

Not only free, but fast!

What’s an acceptable wait time from order to delivery?

Delivery is the most attractive option when offered at no cost. But the days of free delivery as a perk are in the past. Today, free delivery is expected, and the wait time from order to delivery could be the difference between gaining and losing a customer.

When receiving free shipping with an online order, almost half of Canadian consumers consider three to five business days an acceptable lead time.

The social media influence

Social media channels are the most influential digital method when it comes to finding inspiration for holiday purchases. Of the social media networks, 47% of Canadians considered Facebook to be the most influential, followed by YouTube (29%) and Pinterest (26%). In addition, Canadians are more likely to make a purchase if a product is promoted by a social media influencer, especially if the influencer taps into their core values, rather than undertaking an activity that’s seen as sponsored by a brand or corporation.

The host with the most

Almost half of Canadian consumers will host family or friends at their homes for a holiday meal. This means a whole new set of purchasing decisions. Most of the shopping for these special dinners will be done in-store, but online grocery, click and collect and home delivery will also have an impact. Generational and lifestyle differences impact these preferred shopping methods, with 20% of millennial parents opting for the convenience of online grocery click and collect, compared with just 7% for the total population.

Black Friday and beyond

The day following American Thanksgiving is very popular in Canada, with most retailers expanding their opening hours and offering promotional sales. Almost three quarters of consumers will do some of their shopping on Black Friday, either online or in-store. But Canadians don’t usually complete their holiday shopping until after Black Friday week.

Contact us

Sonia Boisvert

FCPA, FCA, Assurance Partner, Consumer Markets, Montreal, PwC Canada

+1 514 205 5312


Kate Furber

CPA, CA, ACA, Vice-Chair and Managing Partner, BC Region, Vancouver, PwC Canada

+1 604 806 7827


Adam Boutros

CPA, National Assurance Markets Lead, Future of Finance Leader, Partner, Oakville, PwC Canada

+1 905 815 6432


Elisa Swern

Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, Partner, Toronto, PwC Canada

+1 416 815 5088


Myles Gooding

National Consumer Markets Leader & Global Consumer Markets Advisory Leader, PwC Canada

+1 416 687 8598