Consumers are still cautious about holiday celebrations

A Numerator survey finds that while intent to purchase is down across categories, it may not correspond to a dip in spending.


While some companies are expecting vaccinations and the lifting of pandemic restrictions to begin a return to normalcy when it comes to holiday buying, intent to purchase food, drinks and gifts for the holidays are still lower than they would have been in years past – though that might not correlate with less being spent overall.

That’s according to data and tech company Numerator’s latest consumer intent survey, which polled 2,877 Canadians on which upcoming holidays they typically celebrate – and whether or not they intend to do the same in 2021.

While 93% of respondents say they celebrate Christmas, the survey says they will be less likely to do so by hosting or visiting a get-together. According to the survey, only 69% plan to get together with friends and family, compared to 78% who say they typically do. And that’s also resulting in an anticipated dip in gift spending, with only 55% planning to give presents, compared with 65% who say they do so in a typical year.

Those dips are hitting other categories as well. Intentions to purchase Christmas decorations are down from 46% to 32%, while baking ingredients are down slightly from 48% to 41% and ready-made desserts slipping from 49% to 43%. Purchase intent for alcoholic beverages, snacks, meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables had even lower dips, with purchase intent being within 5% of a typical year.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in overall spending, as 67% of respondents plan to spend about the same on gifts as in a typical year, with 17% planning to spend more. That’s roughly in line with how spending is anticipated to go for holiday spending as a whole: 66% plan to spend the same, with 17% planning to spend more.

When it comes to where consumers will buy food and drinks for Christmas, Numerator is anticipating a ten-point dip in grocery channels compared with a typical year, but still expects 75% of Canadian to purchase food and drinks there. In second and third are mass retailers and club retailers at 43% and 40%, respectively, experiencing a slight lift compared to a typical year.

According to Numerator data, 43% of Canadians buying presents will do so during November, followed by December (32%).

Looking past Christmas to New Year’s, 71% of respondents say they will celebrate ringing in 2022, with 62% planning to gather with family or friends (compared to 72% in a typical year). But there is a much more pronounced dip in the amount of people planning to host or attend a party (15%, compared to 32% in a typical year) and dine out (6%, compared to 17% for a typical year).

And New Year’s Eve will see similar, slight declines in purchase intent across product categories: 68% for alcohol, 62% for snacks and 51% for meat and seafood (all down 5% to 6% from a typical year). Spending, likewise, is expected to stay roughly the same for 70% of consumers, with 15% planning to spend more.