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Deloitte holiday outlook survey finds cross-border shopping levels may have peaked

Forecast indicates 1-2% retail sales growth this holiday season

Toronto, November 1, 2012 – Canadians are cautiously optimistic about Canada’s economic outlook as they embark on their holiday shopping this season. Deloitte’s 2012 Holiday outlook survey reports 1-2% growth in retail sales that will be shared among expanded online offers, US retailers operating on Canadian soil and cross-border merchants. The survey also finds that today’s consumers are more than ever connected through technologies that are changing how and where they shop.

“Retailers are continuing to wait for a full economic recovery as customers remain quite price sensitive,” says Brent Houlden, Canadian Retail Practice Leader, Deloitte Canada. “With mounting competition, consumers will have an abundance of options for finding deals that deliver true value and savings.”

Cost-conscious consumers: low prices are the biggest influence
Deloitte’s survey finds 63.9% of respondents will choose where they shop based on a store’s low prices.  More than half (57.5%) of respondents indicated that product selection and brand selection (47.2%) are the important attributes they look for in a retailer.

Sixty-five percent of Canadians plan to buy between one and 10 gifts this holiday season. In past years tech gadgets were tops on wish lists but they might not be the most popular items this year. Gift cards (59.4%), clothing (42.2%), toys and dolls (29.4%) are the items that rank highest on this year’s wish lists. Other popular items include books (28.3%), food and liquor (27.7%), technology (24.8%) and cosmetics and fragrances (18.3%).

On-line window shopping: browsing online before going out to the mall
The uptake in mobile devices and Internet use has had an impact on how consumers find gift ideas, compare products and discover sales.  More than half (60%) of Canadians plan to leverage a combination of online, mobile catalogue and store channels for holiday shopping to the same or greater extend as last year.

Sixty percent of Canadians (an increase from 49% in 2011) will use the Internet during the course of their holiday shopping to find the lowest available price, conduct product research and seek validation from friends and family.

Access to technology is important for shoppers. Two thirds of Canadians report doing more or at least the same level of in-store purchases after having conducted research on a retailer’s website. Although only 40% of tablet and smartphone users plan to use their mobile devices to complete purchases, 70% of them nevertheless used their devices to do product research.

“Technology is changing the way Canadians shop.  Shoppers are using the Internet and mobile tools for research,” says Brent Houlden. “Retailers that capitalize on the connected consumer’s new path-to-purchase will win loyal customers and secure bigger market share.”

U.S. retailers and cross-border shopping
Cross border shopping appeals to Canadians who want better price (18.4%), more selection (5.7%), fun experience (6.1%) and to those who want all of the above (22.9%). The Deloitte study also finds that cross-border shopping levels may have peaked.

“Earlier this year, the Canadian government increased personal duty exemptions which saw an increase in cross-border shopping,” says Brent Houlden. “As more U.S. retailers open stores in Canada and with new premium outlet malls being built across the country, the survey findings indicate that Canadian consumers have nominal interest in doing more cross border shopping.  The survey also shows that many Canadians are not yet aware these outlet malls are being built.”

The number of U.S. retailers investing in Canada has had a positive impact on Canada’s construction industry and on Canadian retail sector productivity. As reported in Deloitte’s The Future of Productivity: Clear choices for a competitive Canada, Canada’s retail sector has outperformed the U.S. in terms of productivity growth over the last several years.

Regional findings:

  • Toronto residents are the Canadians most likely to use a mobile device application to make a holiday purchase; the GTA also has the highest concentration of respondents (68%) planning to complete at least some of their holiday transactions online.
  • Vancouverites are increasingly price sensitive with 48% of Vancouver residents using the Internet to check prices compared to the national response rate (40%). 42% of Vancouver respondents look for discounts, coupons and sales information compared to the 31% national figure.
  • Maritimers have the most interest (47%) among Canadians to shop at outlets malls if those malls are located in proximity to where they live.
  • Cross border shopping is increasing among Montrealers this year. One fourth (25.6%) of Montreal residents are likely to cross-border shop compared to last year (15%).

About the survey
The poll was conducted between September 21 and September 27, 2012.  A sample group of 2,349 Canadians was interviewed using an online panel.  Weighting was then employed to balance demographics and ensure the sample’s composition reflects Census data for the adult population and to provide results that reflect the sample universe.  A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100% response rate would have an estimated margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire adult Canadian population been polled.

About Deloitte
Deloitte, one of Canada's leading professional services firms, provides audit, tax, consulting and financial advisory services through more than 8,000 people in 56 offices. Deloitte operates in Québec as Samson Bélair/Deloitte & Touche s.e.n.c.r.l. Deloitte & Touche LLP, an Ontario Limited Liability Partnership, is the Canadian member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a U.K. private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see www.deloitte.com/about  for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and its member firms.

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