Intent to purchase in-store again is growing

The latest wave of IMI's research also shows a big spike in travel intent, though some consumers might not be convinced.

retail grocery carts

The vast majority of Canadians are still concerned about the impacts of COVID-19, but after several months of being stuck at home, some are feeling more confident about doing things outside of the home that were previously off-limits.

That’s according to IMI’s Global Recovery & Playbook, which compared consumer sentiment across 39 countries (including 1,500 Canadians) between July 10 and Aug. 17.

IMI’s research shows that intent to purchase both groceries in-store and at shopping malls have grown by 18% globally – in Canada alone, grocery intent grew by 19% and shopping mall intent by 16%. That seems to be coming at the expense of online buying habits picked up during the pandemic: intent to purchase groceries online had a 13% net decrease and intent to go online to “purchase whatever I need” is down 5%. Third party delivery brands take note: the intent to purchase online meals and food is slowing, showing a net decrease of 8%. Online intent for health and personal care, however, stayed unchanged.


Once again, the research firm polled Canadians regarding their intent to venture out in other venues. Interest in cafes and bars and nightclubs is surging have increased by 34% and 23%, respectively, while family style restaurants are picking up steam as well with a 14% net increase of intent. There was a very slight uptick when it comes to QSRs, while interest in patronizing buffet style restaurants continue to stagnate. 

IMI is also finding “significant pent up demand” for community and outdoor events (38% and 31% net increases, respectively), followed by live festivals (22% increase) and live sporting events (21% increase).  

Canadians also report an increased intent to travel, especially family vacations and intra-country vacations, which have had a 42% and 40% spike, respectively. Meanwhile, there is also growing interest in flying (a 21% net increase over July), staying in a hotel (23% net increase) and taking a vacation beyond Canada’s borders (a net increase of 27% compared with July figures). 

However, while more Canadians are open to public events and travel, a significant number are convinced it will be some time until they go there again. For bars and nightclubs, 39% of consumers will not go there until there is a vaccine, with 25% saying the same of an indoor restaurant. In travel, 44% will not travel outside the country and 43% will not get on a plane. While consumers are feeling more comfortable shopping, 20% still will not go to an indoor mall until there is a vaccine and 13% will not go to a car dealership.

IMI also once again examined factors that can boost consumer confidence levels as they are becoming more bold. Presented with different images communicating shopping local, a store’s social distancing measures, images and branding that were direct, yet polite and inviting, or focusing on the benefits instead of the problems were highly favoured by consumers over ones that were serious-looking and created fear.