Holiday spending on the rise

The ground is white, the lights are up, and the malls are packed — it’s time for the holidays. Yet for many Canadians, this time of year can be dreaded due to the financial strains surrounding the holidays.

“We are conservatively projecting a three per cent increase in sales this year over last,” said Sally Ritchie, vice president of communications and marketing at the Retail Council of Canada. “Stats Canada’s recent retail sales report indicated that retails sales had increased one per cent to 38.2 billion [dollars] — the highest increase we’ve seen since November 2010. What that tells us is that retail confidence is high,” she said.

Some call it the giving spirit but most retailers depend on holiday income. “It is the number one season for retailers, it is the most important retail season in their calendar in terms of income,” said Ritchie.

Yet for some, holiday spending may be detrimental. “The debt that Canadians are holding is excessive versus any point in our history,” said Mathew Elmslie, an investment advisor at TD Waterhouse, “we actually hold more debt than U.S. consumers, which is stunning to most people.”

Though spending has been increasing nation wide, it may be comforting for some to know that local holiday spending has declined. “I don’t know about this year because we are just getting into it but I know that last year versus the year before that there was a decrease,” said Elmslie.

Despite popular belief that Boxing Day holds most of the holiday spending, Elmslie assures us that is quite the opposite. “What we’ve seen over the last three years is advanced discounting by retailers. So we’re seeing sales, not Boxing Day sales, sales starting around the U.S. Thanksgiving.

“What’s happening is the spending is moving earlier in December and even into November, versus what you’d normally have, sales leading up to Christmas and then massive Boxing Day sales.”

Many Canadians have accepted spending as a part a holiday tradition and have no plans to cut back. “Everybody is aware of a global economic problem but Canadian consumers are a little more confident than others,” said Ritchie.

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