Big ticket items could take a big hit due to COVID-19

A Field Agent survey finds an uncertain economic outlook has impacted purchase intent for vehicles, electronics and furniture.

The outlook is gloomy for ATVs, campers, headphones, smart tech and televisions over the next six months, according to data compiled by Field Agent Canada.

Ahead of Stats Canada’s next round of retail sales performance numbers, which will be unveiled next week, Field Agent surveyed 1,100 Canadians about big ticket items they are planning on buying over the next six months – and how that is impacted by the fact that 31% of them have a “negative” outlook on their financial situation (compared with only 5% who say it is “very positive” and 44% “neutral”).

Between March and April, purchase intent for ATV and watercraft went down by 59% and by 58% for campers and RVs. While those weren’t the most popular categories to begin with (each went from roughly 2% of respondents intending to buy to 1%), COVID-19 concerns are also affecting more popular product categories as well, and ones not directly impacted by being less able to go outside. Purchase intent for both headphones and smart home technology slid by 57% month-to-month, and by 54% for televisions. Despite people staying home, purchase intent for both dining room and bedroom furniture saw declines (50% and 48%, respectively) while condo and home purchases are seeing a 42% drop-off in intent.


Among the more popular big-ticket items, in March, 26% of respondents expressed an intent to buy computer equipment within six months, versus only 15% in April, a decline of 41% as the pandemic crisis deepened. Mobile devices saw a decline as well, with 22% of survey respondents intending to purchase cellphones in March, compared with only 13% in April, a decline of 40%. And purchase intent for vehicles – which was already seeing a drop-off compared to previous years – was 17% among respondents in March, down to just 9% for April, a drop of 49%.

“It’s clear that specialty retailers, car dealerships and real estate businesses will see significant challenges in the months ahead,” according to Field Agent Canada’s Jeff Doucette, “and even if the economy starts to reopen they will need to provide significant incentives to get Canadians to open their wallets for big ticket items that are often discretionary purchases.”