Shopping visits predicted to hold steady in months ahead

IMI's ongoing analysis of consumer behaviour amid the COVID-19 pandemic shows the impact differs across categories.

With the proliferation of COVID-19, seven in 10 Canadians plan on changing their behaviours within the next three months, up slightly from the two-thirds of consumers who said the same earlier this month.

According to the second wave of IMI’s examination of how consumer behaviour is changing in response to COVID-19, it shows that (as of March 12) 70% of people in the country will do specific out-of-home activities “much less” within the next three months due to the Coronavirus. IMI completed more than 15,000 global online interviews between Mar. 7 and Mar. 12 to form the insights in the study, with over 2,000 from Canada.

What’s notable is that 20% of Canadians surveyed still do not believe “there is really any issue today,” with an estimation that, by July and August, COVID-19 “will no longer be a health issue.” What’s more alarming is that, while they anticipate behaviour to change in the future, 55% of Canadians surveyed said they’ve not yet done so, as of March 12.

The impact on people going to stores, however, saw minimal change, and actually an increase in one key categories.

The study notes that while people are still “much less likely” to visit a shopping mall in the next three months than is typical of this time of year, the amount of consumers who said they are planning to do less shopping is flat from the last edition of the survey at 16%. And, as scenes of store overcrowding and empty shelves have been common across Canada, only 7% say they are planning to visit grocery stores less often in the next three months – compared to 9% who said the same earlier this month.

“It should be expected that online shopping will increase during this time,” the report adds.

Canadians are also looking to stay domestic, and buy locally when it comes to products. Approximately 58% of respondents are much more likely to purchase products that are made in Canada, versus “Made In Mexico,” (4%) or “A Farm in the USA” (5%).

The survey was in market before many major sports leagues postponed their seasons, travel restrictions began to come into effect, businesses began to close and major events were cancelled; however, the questions Canadians were polled on extends three months into the future, providing a suggestion of how consumer behaviour might continue to change well after official policy returns to status quo.

The number one activity Canadians surveyed plan to do less of in the next three months is travel outside of the country, with travelling by plane second, and going to a sporting event seeing the third biggest decline.

The travel industry looks to take the biggest hit over the next three months, as 36% of Canadians surveyed said they plan to travel much less outside of the country – an increase of eight percent from the previous edition of the survey. Airlines in particular are expected to see less traffic within the next three months, as 31% of Canadians surveyed said they plan to travel by air much less – also up eight percent since Mar. 1.

The study notes how there will be negative pressure on the restaurant industry with costumers “intending to go to restaurants less,” regardless of the time of day, for the next three months, but like with shopping, the numbers have seen a rebound. While 7% of people intend to visit a restaurant less for dinner in the next three months (up from 5% earlier this month), 7% say they are less likely to go out for lunch (compared to 14% earlier this month).