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CPA Canada Unwraps Canadians’ 2020 Holiday Spending Plans

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are planning to spend about the same as last year on holiday season gifts


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This holiday season is different, as the ongoing pandemic exposes many Canadians to new challenges. According to the annual Holiday Spending Study from Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), despite COVID-19, 37 per cent of holiday gift shoppers have still put money aside for holiday gifts in 2020, similar to the 39 per cent reported in 2019.

While 29 per cent of surveyed holiday gift shoppers plan to spend less this year due to the pandemic, when it comes to gifting, Canadians still intend to spend an average of $588 this holiday season, slightly higher than the $583 reported in the 2019 CPA Canada Holiday Spending Study.

In person vs. online shopping

A big change for the holiday season in 2020 is how people plan to shop. While online shopping has been trending up in recent years, it appears that the pandemic may have boosted that trend.

“For many of us, the holidays are traditionally synonymous with major sales and crowded malls,” explains Doretta Thompson, CPA Canada’s Financial Literacy Leader. “Last year, 45 per cent of shoppers planned to do the majority of their holiday shopping at bricks and mortar stores. When we were conducting this survey in October, only 30 per cent planned to do the majority of their holiday gift shopping in-store and, given the deteriorating pandemic situation in many parts of the country, that number may now be optimistic for in-person shopping.”

The survey also reveals that one in three respondents will do the majority of their holiday gift shopping online, compared to less than one in five the previous year. Many respondents are still interested in sales though, with 58 per cent of Canadians aiming to shop during major sales, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day, as compared to 63 per cent in the prior year.

Changes to holiday travel and entertainment

Depending on the level of restrictions in place over the holidays, travel and entertaining may be off the table for many Canadians this year. Many survey respondents are likely to avoid travel during the holiday season as one-third do not plan to spend anything on travel and an additional 38 per cent plan to spend less than $200. In terms of money spent entertaining, 13 per cent of respondents plan to spend nothing at all this year, a sizeable part of the 59 per cent of respondents who plan to spend less than $200.

Other findings

  • 82 per cent of those surveyed, plan to make charitable donations this holiday season, a number similar to last year.
  • 47 per cent of respondents said they normally set a holiday spending budget, down compared to 56 per cent of respondents in 2019
  • 78 per cent expect that they will be able to stick to their holiday gift budget this holiday season
  • 48 per cent indicated that they normally feel added stress during the holiday season, which is identical to last year’s findings.
  • 33 per cent feel optimistic about the upcoming holiday season, compared to 41% who are neither optimistic nor pessimistic and 27 per cent who are pessimistic

To learn more about Canadians’ 2020 holiday spending habits and predictions, visit: cpacanada.ca/holidayspending.

Survey Methodology

Nielsen conducted the CPA Canada 2020 Holiday Spending Study via an online questionnaire, from October 1 to October 6, 2020 with 2,004 randomly selected Canadian adults, aged 18 years and over, who are members of their online panel. A background document can be found online at: cpacanada.ca/holidayspending.

About Canada’s CPAs

The Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation is used by more than 220,000 professional accountants around the world. Canadian CPAs are valued for their financial and tax expertise, strategic thinking, business insight, management skills and leadership. Canadian CPAs serve in senior roles in Canada and abroad and are recognized as having the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. They work in all sectors of the economy: public practice, industry, government, not for profit and academia. cpacanada.ca

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