How has the pandemic impacted holiday shopping and winter travel in Canada?

This holiday season will be unlike any other that Canadian’s have experienced because the COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted what we can and should do this year.

For the past eight months, the pandemic has altered many of the ways we do things. It introduced consumers to new ways of shopping, strengthened loyalty with pre-existing brands, and forced us to reconsider the value of different things in our lives.

In our latest national survey of over 2,900 Canadians, we explored how COVID-19 is going to impact shopping and travel in the 2020 holiday season.

Here are some of the highlights from that survey:

Finding #1: More than half of Canadians have started their holiday shopping already. With almost 1 in 5 saying they are already done.

Atlantic Canadians and women are more likely to have gotten a head start on their holiday shopping compared with other regions or among men.

Two factors are driving the early holiday shopping patterns of Canadians:

1) There’s broad hesitation in going to shopping malls – 81% of Canadians say they will avoid shopping malls if they can this year.

2) 70% of Canadians are concerned about delays in shipping or the postal service for purchases made online. This concern has forced them to think and shop sooner than they normally would.

Finding #2: Compared with last year, far more holiday shopping will be done online.

When asked to estimate what percentage of their holiday shopping last year was done online versus in-store, two-thirds of shopping was done in store compared to one-third online.

This year, Canadian consumers estimate that they will do on average 56% of their shopping online compared to 44% in-store. This represents a substantial shift in how Canadians will shop this holiday season.

Along generational lines, boomers have drastically increased their online shopping from last year, surpassing millennials’ online shopping habits from last year.

Finding #3: Shopping and supporting local businesses is important to Canadians this holiday season. Over 7 in 10

Canadians say they will try to shop local this year.

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an increased desire and intention of Canadians to shop and support local businesses. This holiday season is no different, with over 7 in 10 reporting that they will try to shop local more this year than in the past. This desire does not falter among subgroups.

Finding #4: For some Canadians, the pandemic will take a bite out of holiday spending this year. For others, spending will increase.

30% of Canadians say they will be spending less on holiday shopping this year than last year, while 16% say they will be spending more.

Here we see a difference among generational lines with more than twice as many millennials expecting to spend more on holiday gifts this year than any other generation.

Finding #5: Higher spending on holiday shopping comes as winter travel intentions to warmer destinations all but disappears.

Last year, about 1 in 5 Canadian adults said they travelled to a warm destination over the winter. Not surprisingly, this year only 3% intend to do so, representing an 85% reduction in winter travel to warmer destinations.


Canadians have endured a lot over the past 8 months and are not letting the pandemic dampen their holiday spirit. In fact, their preparedness has increased, as most still plan to do holiday shopping this year and half have already begun.
Even though the pandemic has financially impacted many Canadians, all is not lost – a majority still plan to do as much holiday spending as they normally do.

Although Canadians remain hesitant to shop in-store this holiday season, there is a strong desire to support and have access to local businesses. Local retailers who have been able to adapt to having an online presence will be more successful this season.

Millennials are going to be big spenders this holiday season. Even though a third will not be spending on travel to visit family this year, they are twice as likely to expect to spend more on food, alcohol, decorations, and entertainment/activities this holiday season than other generations.


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The survey was conducted with 2,950 Canadian adults from November 16 to 24, 2020. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 1.8%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

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