The holiday season of 2020 was not much fun. Covid-19 was the uninvited guest and many people had to spend their holidays separated from family and friends. Many people also had to curb their spending.

With restrictions easing in 2021 and life returning to more normal patterns, what did the holiday season look like? Did Canadian consumers flock to the shops and make up for the lack of festivities the previous year? Or were people still cautious about spending?

Holiday Spending Statistics for Canadians

  • The estimates from holiday spending in 2021 run from $792 to $1,841, depending on the report.
  • Most Canadians overspent during the holiday season with only 2% sticking to or spending less than their budget.
  • 7% of Canadian consumers overspent their budget by more than a thousand dollars.
  • Millennials are the biggest spenders, while individuals from the greatest generation are likely to spend the least during the holiday season.
  • The average Canadian consumers’ spending on gifts was $39 more in 2021 than 2020.
  • Spending on travel during the holiday season has been slow to recover, with the average Canadian spending over £200 less on travel than before the pandemic.
  • Canadians spent slightly more on entertainment in 2021 compared to before the pandemic.
  • Post-pandemic, Canadian consumers’ spending on themselves is up from 2020, but not to the level before the pandemic.
  • The amounts Canadians spend on family and friends are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Almost 2/3 of Canadian consumers say they like to show loyalty to Canadian brands.
  • 73% of consumers prefer to shop in stores with solid health measures in place.
  • Valentine’s Day spending in 2022 was down 13% compared to the previous year.
  • 75% of Canadians made purchases specifically for Easter in 2022.
  • Almost three quarters of consumers expect Covid-19 to affect their holiday season plans again this year.

Holiday spending is still below pre-pandemic levels but higher than in 2020

The easing restrictions in 2021 encouraged many people to spend more during the holiday season. A survey by the Retail Council of Canada found that Canadians were going to spend more on their holiday shopping, visit more bring-and-mortar stores, meet more people and attend more celebrations in person than in 2020. According to this survey, the average Canadian was planning to spend $792 during the 2021 holiday season compared to $693 in 2020.

However, the amount could be higher than that, as suggested in a report by Deloitte Canada. In their Holiday Retail Outlook, they reported that Canadians were expected to spend around $1,841 on the holidays. This would be a 31% increase compared to 2020 and 8% more than in 2019.

Yet another figure comes from PwC Canada, who reported that on average, Canadians planned to spend 29% more during the holiday season in 2021 compared to the previous year. The average amount was $1,593. This estimate is 11% lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Budgets Canadians set for themselves versus actual spending

Regardless of what Canadians plan to spend, data from Statista shows that most Canadians are likely to overspend during the holiday period, with only 2% of shoppers staying within their budget.

Canadians are most likely to overspend by up to $100, with 27% of consumers falling into this group. 19% of consumers overspend between $101 and $200 while 16% of people overspend by $401-$500. Surprisingly many Canadians go over the budget they set themselves by over $1,000 with 7% of consumers in this category.

Spending increases with wages

The people most likely to increase their holiday season spending were those with higher wages. Canadians earning over $60,000 were planning to spend $1,773 on average, compared to $919 for those earning less than $60,000. Individuals earning over $150,000 per year planned to spend around $2,451.

How does planned spending vary across the generations?

The holiday season spending habits vary among the generations. According to PwC, in Canada, millennials are the biggest spenders, with an average millennial spending $1,618 in 2021. Generation X individuals are the next highest spenders, with $1,452 on average, and baby boomers the third with $1,373.

People from the generation Z and the greatest generation spent the least with $1,178 and $1,011 respectively.

Canadians are spending more on gifts than before the pandemic

The spending on gifts dipped during the 2020 pandemic Christmas with many people having to be more careful with their money, but in 2021 not just returned to, but overtook spending before the pandemic.

That said, the difference in spending is not as striking as in other areas of Canadian holiday spending, with Canadians spending only $39 more on average in 2021 than in 2020. In 2021, spending on gifts was estimated to be $669 on average compared to $630 in 2020. The pre-pandemic gift spending in 2019 was $647 on average.

According to Statista, 11% of Canadian consumers were looking to spend over $1,000 on gifts during the 2021 holiday season.

Spending on holiday travel is not up to the pre-pandemic levels

The slowest category to recover has been spending on travel during the holiday season with many Canadians still wary of travelling. Before the pandemic, Canadians spent on average $743 on travel during the holiday season.

Understandably, under the restrictions of 2020, this spending more than halved with Canadians only spending $308 on travel. Although consumers allocated more money towards travel expenses during the 2021 holiday season, the average spending was still below the pre-pandemic numbers at $511.

Holiday season entertainment

On average, Canadians spent $204 on entertainment before the global pandemic. The money spent on entertainment during the 2020 holiday season didn’t drop as much as some might have expected, with the average Canadian still spending $166 on entertainment.

In 2021, the entertainment spending during the holiday season was slightly more than before the pandemic at $209.

Personal spending

During the pandemic, Canadians spent a lot less on themselves than they did before the pandemic amid insecurities over their finances. Before the pandemic, the average amount Canadians spent on themselves during the holiday season was $537 compared to just $272 during the pandemic.

In 2021, Canadians were again allocating more money on themselves during the holiday season. However, it was still nearly $60 less than before the pandemic at $478.

Spending on family and friends

Compared to the drop in personal spending, Canadian consumers’ spending on their family changed a lot less and the change in the spending on friends was minimal. Before the pandemic, Canadians were spending on average $869 on family and $118 on friends during the holiday season.

During the pandemic, these numbers dropped to $653 and $111. In 2021, spending on family was up to $768 and friends $115.

Spending on pets

Many pet owners like to purchase treats or gifts for their pets, too over the holiday season and their spending remained the same in 2020 and 2021. In both years, Canadian pet owners spent $33 on gifts and treats for their pets. This is slightly less than the pre-pandemic spending, which was $40.

Many consumers want to support Canadian companies and brands during the holiday season

62% of Canadian consumers say they like to show loyalty to Canadian brands and retailers when doing their holiday shopping. In addition, 55% say they want their dollars to stay in Canada to support the Canadian economy.

However, cross-border shopping was more popular in 2021. While 28% of consumers did cross-border shopping in 2020, 38% did so in 2021. People who shopped across the border said it was because of better prices (83%), they couldn’t find what they wanted locally (68%), and more choice (62%).

Covid-19 is still affecting Canadians’ shopping choices

Even with restrictions lifted, many Canadians still say the virus affects how and where they shop to some extent. 73% of consumers said they prefer to shop in places that have good health measures in place, while 59% said they would be more likely to shop in stores where admission is restricted to those who have been vaccinated.

While almost 80% of consumers still prefer to make their food shopping in-store, the popularity of online home delivery is growing. In 2020, only 7% of consumers used home delivery compared to 21% in 2021. Curbside pickups also increased in popularity, jumping from 33% in 2020 to 50% in 2021.

Valentine’s Day spending 2022

Despite the return to more normal in many areas of life, Canadians’ Valentine’s Day spending hasn’t caught up with the pre-pandemic levels. According to a HelloSafe poll, the spending was 13% less than in 2021 when the average spent on Valentine’s day was $74 compared to $64 in 2022.

Compared to 2020, which was the last Valentine’s Day before the pandemic, spending is down by 31%. The pandemic and economic crises combined have reduced Canadians’ willingness to spend on Valentine’s Day.

The portion of Canadians who reduced their Valentine’s Day budget was 58.1% while 26.4% said their budget was the same in 2022 as in 2021. Only 15.5% said they were spending more this year.

Flowers and greetings cards are the most popular gift choices at 36%. While many people were still wary of going to restaurants, the most popular activity for Valentine’s Day was a romantic dinner at home with 39% of the people polled choosing this option.

Easter Spending 2022

According to a survey from Caddle and the Retail Council of Canada, 75% of Canadians had plans to make purchases specifically related to Easter.

There was a 3% increase in the amount Canadian consumers expected to spend during the Easter holiday with 55% planning to spend $50 on average. 23% had a budget of $51-$199, 12% $101-$200 and the remaining 10% were spending more than $200 or not spending any money at all.

Most of the Easter budget is spent on food, drinks, candies and eating out, with 60% of consumers choosing this as their primary spending category. 19% of Canadians prioritize spending money on toys during the Easter holiday. Majority of Canadians, at 72%, make their Easter shopping a few days before the holiday.

Outlook for the 2022 holiday season

With 73% of Canadians expecting Covid-19 to affect their holiday season plans to some extent, according to the Numerator, what are the plans looking like for the holiday season?

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the most widely celebrated holidays with 97% and 96% respectively. 14% of the people surveyed will celebrate Hanukkah. Majority of Canadians (87%) will celebrate New Year’s Eve.

Some people have already started to plan for the holidays, with 42% already planning their Christmas, 36% planning thanksgiving, 30% Hanukkah and 27% New Year’s Eve. Christmas is the most popular holiday to get together and to give gifts with 77% saying they are gathering with friends or family and 84% giving gifts.

Christmas is also the holiday where people spend the most, with half of the population spending upwards of $200. Thanksgiving sees people spending between $100-$150 dollars, New Year’s Eve $50-$100 and Hanukkah $25-$75.

Most people, 90%, will spend extra money on food at thanksgiving, 81% at Christmas, 76% on New Year’s Eve and 56% at Hanukkah. New Year’s Eve is the holiday when most people, 57%, spend extra on alcohol.

Conclusion

Following the easing of restrictions and the administration of vaccinations, spending was up during the 2021 holiday season compared to the year before. However, in many cases, spending was still below the pre-pandemic levels.

In 2022, people spent less on Valentine’s Day than the year before, but Easter holiday spending was up slightly. As the 2022 holiday season approaches, many Canadians are expecting their plans still to be affected by Covid-19.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are different estimates on how much Canadian holiday spending is. These estimates run from $792 to $1,841 for the 2021 holiday season.

Most Canadians overspend during the holiday season. Only 2% of Canadians say they stick to their budget or spend less than planned.

Millennials are likely to spend the most during the holiday season, while people from the greatest generations are likely to spend the least.

In 2021, Canadians spent $669 on average on gifts. It was up from 2020 when Canadian gift spending was $630.

The statistics show that Canadian consumers prefer to shop Canadian brands, with 62% saying they want to be loyal to brands from Canada. 55% of Canadian consumers also want the money they spend to go towards supporting the Canadian economy.

Sources