Holiday Shopping: Canadians To Spend More This Season, But Check Prices Online, Study Says

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HOLIDAY SHOPPING CANADA
Shoppers scramble for merchandise inside a major electronic chain store in the early morning hours in Toronto on Boxing Day Monday, December 26, 2011. Canadians will spend one to two per cent more this holiday season, but an increasing number will check for the best prices online before they head to the mall, a new study suggests. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Pawel Dwulit) | CP

MONTREAL - Canadians will spend one to two per cent more this holiday season, but an increasing number will check for the best prices online before they head to the mall, a new study suggests.

"We think it's a highly price competitive Christmas," said Brent Houlden, Canadian retail practice leader at Deloitte, which released its 2012 holiday outlook survey Thursday.

Due to online price checking before going to the mall, shoppers are that much more demanding that "we get the real value up front," Houlden said from Toronto.

The study said 60 per cent of those surveyed will use the Internet during their holiday shopping for prices and research, up from 49 per cent in 2011.

Pricing loomed large in the holiday trends survey with 64 per cent of participants saying they will choose where they shop based on a store's low prices.

The survey didn't ask participants how much they would spend. Instead, it asked how many gifts they planned to buy.

Those surveyed said they would buy between one and 10 gifts with the top choices being gift cards followed by clothing and toys. Tech gifts ranked sixth on this year's wish list after having been at the top of the list in previous years.

Houlden said gift buying will be spread among online offers, U.S. retailers operating in Canada and cross-border shopping, helping keep prices competitive.

"Canadians are always trying to find the best price in Canada and then they go, 'Oh, what would it be in the States?' So we're doing a double price check all of the time."

But the Deloitte poll found that 67 per cent of those surveyed said they didn't plan to do cross- border shopping in the United States this holiday season.

Another 42 per cent responded that they would decrease the level of cross-border shopping over time as U.S. retailers open up in Canada. Discount retailer Target will open in Canada in 2013.

"So we hope cross-border shopping is at a peak."

Canadians on a jaunt to the U.S. for two and seven days are now allowed to declare $800 of goods, up from $400, while the limit for visits of more than a week increased to $800 from $750.

As for buying gifts online, about 55 per cent of Canadians surveyed plan to complete some of their shopping online.

The survey found that just 40 per cent planned to use their smartphone or tablet to buy online, but 70 per cent would use these devices for product research.

Houlden said shoppers are now checking prices in stores with their smartphones making it "tough on the sales associate" to stay current.

Regionally, almost 70 per cent of residents in the Greater Toronto Area planning to do some of their holiday transactions online.

More Montrealers would go cross-border shopping with 26 per cent surveyed saying they would make the trip, compared with 15 per cent in 2011.

Maritimers have the most interest among Canadians to shop at outlet malls if they're close to where they live, the survey said.

Last year, the Deloitte survey found that Canadians were less likely to splurge on holiday shopping due to pessimism about the economy and people choosing to pay down their debts.

The online poll was conducted between Sept. 21-27 with 2,349 Canadians.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

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