Canadian Retail Holiday Shopping Stats 2018

The 2018 Canadian retail holiday shopping season is officially behind us, and so is what some were calling a bad year for retail.

But it seems that the final months of the year ended on a high note for some.

We’ve got a look at what trends emerged over the 2018 holiday season and what to keep an eye on for the future.

1.Overall Canadian sales were down, but retail sales were up in November 2018.

According to Statistics Canada, overall retail sales across Canada dropped 0.9% to $50.4 billion in November. Economists had expected a drop of 0.6%, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

But the majority of the drop came from sales falling at gas stations and motor vehicles and parts dealers. Excluding those retailers, retail sales actually increased by 0.2%.

Overall, sales were down in six of 11 subsectors, representing 75% of retail trade. Retail sales in volume terms fell 0.4% in November, according to Statistics Canada.

December statistics are still forthcoming.

2.Cannabis is selling well.

Cannabis sales were officially launched on October 17, 2018. In November, the first full month of legal recreational pot sales, Cannabis store sales totaled $54 million, according to Statistics Canada.

Those sales were up 25% from the $43.1 million recorded in October, which included roughly two weeks of legal pot sales. It also increased despite a supply crunch.

3.Canadian holiday shoppers aren’t abandoning bricks-and-mortar stores.

According to Retail Insider, a national survey conducted for the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) association indicated that 46% of respondents planned to spend the largest part of their holiday gift budget in store.

4.Canadians are spending more than expected during the holidays.

The Holiday Shopping in Canada Survey for 2018 by the Retail Council of Canada found that Canadians estimated they would spend $675 over the holiday season. The average actual holiday spend in 2017 was $705.

5.Stores to the south had a bumper year.

Early sales data from the U.S. found that retail sales were up 5.1% to more than $850 billion, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. The report looked at consumer purchases from December 1 through 24. 2018 had the strongest performance in six years.

6.E-commerce sales were steadily increasing before the holiday season.

According to Strategy Online, for the 12 months ending October 2018, e-commerce sales from both pure-play operators and bricks-and-mortar stores represented roughly 2.8% of Canadian retail sales. (Those figures do not include sales made on foreign websites.)

But e-commerce sales for the three-month period ending in October were up 16.9%. (However, this is still less than the 26.5% recorded during the same period the year before.)

7.Conversations starting around statutory holidays.

Two statutory holidays are being questioned by some retailers.

Should Boxing Day be a statutory holiday? Waterloo Region Record columnist Luis D’Amato questioned why, for a day that has come to be mostly about shopping, it is a statutory holiday.

What about New Year’s Day?

Yorkdale Mall questioned the New Year’s Day designation when they were forced to close on Jan. 1 due to City of Toronto regulations. However, other shopping centres with special permits remained open. And shoppers weren’t aware that Yorkdale would be closed and came anyway but couldn’t get in.

In today’s 24/7 society, are these statutory holidays still needed or do they just drive away potential business?

8.Look for alternative shipping providers.

One lesson that some Canadian retailers may have learned is to have a back-up shipping provider. With the Canada Post mail strike in November 2018, some shoppers were turning to larger e-commerce providers, like Amazon, who provided alternate shipping methods so packages would still arrive on time for the holidays.

Many circumstances can affect shipping speeds and delivery times, but during the holiday season it appears to be a smart move to have a reliable provider, or a reliable back-up.

While the 2019 holiday season is still 11 months away, Marketsupport Canada can help your brand remain successful until then. We provide in-store and online support for manufacturers and retailers across Canada.

Contact us today to find out how we can help. Call 1-877-421-5081 or visit

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