90% of Canadians consider it important to buy from a retailer in Canada this holiday season - Retail Council of Canada

90% of Canadians consider it important to buy from a retailer in Canada this holiday season

November 10, 2020

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day still important shopping occasions as Canadians look to different ways to shop, buy products and celebrate the holidays this year.

Holiday shopping this year may be different, but Canadians are still planning to get into the festive spirit.

Retail Council of Canada’s (RCC) annual Holiday Shopping Survey of over 2,500 Canadians from coast to coast conducted in early October 2020, shows that while Canadians will be spending less in some categories, they are eager to support local retailers and businesses while purchasing gifts for others and themselves.

“More than ever, Canadians understand the critical role retail plays in helping keep our communities strong,” says Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO Retail Council of Canada. “Retailers are doing everything they can to ensure Canadians have the products they want and are offering great promotions so consumers can confidently and safely begin their holiday shopping earlier this year.  Canadians, in turn, are increasingly appreciating the role they can play in helping to support retailers and businesses in Canada during this pandemic.“

The ongoing uncertainty brought on by the pandemic has made Canadians less structured in their approach to planning and budgeting for holiday shopping.  Their changing lifestyles are reflected in the types of product categories they intend to purchase.  Items that help make peoples’ experience at home better, improve their wellness, and promote enjoyment of the outdoors, are seeing increases this year.  There is also a growing trend towards self-gifting, particularly because of the deferral spending on travel to warmer climates or snowy alpine peaks.

How people research, buy and bring home merchandise is substantially different this year – a quarter of Canadians have begun their holiday shopping early because they are concerned about shipping delays.  An ongoing shift towards online shopping will also continue over the holidays as more Canadians say they plan to shop online this season.  Consumers expect a seamless, COVID-safe experience across channels, and options such as buy online and pick-up in-store or curbside, have, and continue to grow in importance.

The pandemic has also put a spotlight on the challenges facing small community merchants.  The theme that emerges from this year’s research is the call to action of shop early, shop safe and shop local.  Holiday 2020 will likely set new benchmarks for years to come.


  • Shopping local is of growing importance for Canadians: 90% of Canadians say buying from a retailer in Canada is key and 83% also agree that buying items made in Canada is important.
  • Holiday spending intentions are lower but 50% still plan to spend about the same as last year: Canadians are planning to spend $693 in 2020 (vs. $792 in 2019), with 57% saying this is because there will be fewer get-togethers and 55% saying it is because they have less money to spend.
    • Canadians plan to spend similar percentages of their budgets on Black Friday (37%), Cyber Monday (25%) and Boxing Day (27%) as they did last year.
    • 74% of their budget will be spent on others, while 26% will be spent on themselves. 41% of those who will spend more on themselves this year will do so because they want to treat themselves.
  • The product categories Canadians will be spending their money on is shifting: The number one category remains food, alcohol, candy or sweets (19% of overall spend).
    • The second and third categories are, like last year, clothing and toys. However, the budget portion people are spending in these categories is shifting to other categories.
    • More money this year will be spent on personal electronics, health and personal care, books and music, sports equipment, and furniture.
  • Important factors driving purchases change to reflect pandemic realities: The most important factors driving purchasing decisions this year have changed (holiday sales and promotions, free shipping and quick shipping of online orders) as Canadians are more concerned about being able to get the purchases they want on time and from a retailer that provides the safety measures and assurances consumers expect.
    • 28% of Canadians also say the ability to buy online and pick-up in-store or curbside is more important this year than in the past.
  • Shift to online continues and emphasizes the importance for retailers to provide seamless experiences across their selling channels: The shift to online shopping will accelerate.
    • 58% of consumers will shop in store this year (a 14% decline vs. 2019) and 42% will shop online (an increase of 14% vs. 2019).
    • Mobile will see a huge increase in usage for both researching and ordering across all product categories.


  • A quarter of Canadians have already begun their 2020 holiday shopping. In terms of timing vs. last year, 21% this year say they will shop earlier in 2020 – the main reason is to avoid shipping delays, 8% will shop later, and 71% won’t change when they begin shopping this year.
  • On average, about three quarters of Canadians’ holiday shopping is spent on gifts for others.
  • Fewer think holiday shopping will be stressful in 2020 (52% in 2020 vs. 57% in 2019).
  • More are doing research before they begin their holiday shopping (51% in 2020 vs. 46% in 2019).
  • Fewer think it will be a challenge to find gifts this year (43% in 2020 vs. 67% in 2019).
  • Fewer will line up to get better deals (12% vs. 17%).


  • Ontario: Ontarians are more likely to shop online than in-store versus several other provinces (46% of holiday budget vs. 42% nationally); specifically, with home deliveries (34% of holiday budget vs. 31% nationally).
  • Quebec: On average, Quebeckers plan on spending less this year than the rest of Canada ($532 vs. $743 RoC). On average, Quebeckers have a higher proportion of their budget dedicated to gifts for themselves than other provinces (29% of holiday budget).
  • Atlantic: More Atlantic Canadians say they will still browse in-store this year versus several other provinces (54% Atl vs. 39% nationally). They are also more likely to shop local to avoid shipping delays vs. several other provinces (59% vs. 47% nationally).
  • Manitoba / Saskatchewan: Compliance with health and safety protocols seems to have more of an influence on those in the prairies vs. other provinces (24% say it’s of top-3 importance when choosing a retailer, vs. 17% nationally).
  • Alberta: Albertans are more likely than several other provinces to shop at big box retailers (53% AB vs. 36% nationally).
  • British Columbia: Although still important, it is not as important for those in British Columbia to buy from a Canadian retailer vs. other Canadian provinces (85% say it’s important BC vs. 90% nationally)

About the Survey

The 2020 RCC Holiday Shopping Survey was conducted online by Leger with a sample size of 2,521 and a nationally representative sample of males and females 18+. Conducted between October 2 and October 11, 2020, the survey was fielded in both English and French. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The full survey can be found at: RetailCouncil.org/research/rcc-holiday-shopping-survey-2020


For more information or to schedule media interviews, contact:
Michelle Wasylyshen

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. www.RetailCouncil.org