Okanagan retailers brace for what could be bleak Christmas shopping season

Click to play video: 'Bleak outlook for retailers this holiday season'
Bleak outlook for retailers this holiday season
Retailers in the Okanagan and elsewhere in Canada are bracing for what could be a bleak holiday spending season. The weeks leading up to Christmas are critical months for the retailing industry but with the tough economic times for many, this year may not deliver to the same degree as in the past. Klaudia Van Emmerik reports. – Nov 14, 2023

At Andre’s Electronic Experts in Kelowna, B.C., televisions and appliances have dropped in price as supply has drastically improved since the pandemic and demand for products has declined.

“We talk about inflation, we’ve got massive deflation in our electronics business,” said owner Andre Blanleil. “I’ve never seen this pricing before that we’re seeing today.”

It’s those competitive prices that has Blanleil banking on getting him through what’s shaping up to be a tough Christmas shopping season for retailers and manufacturers.

“Suppliers recognize it’s going to be a little tougher year and you know,” Blanleil said. “They’ve all got to move boxes, and they’ve got to get it out of their warehouse and they’re going to do whatever it takes to move it through.”

Suppliers and retailers are trying to make prices appealing for consumers, many of whom are changing this year’s holiday spending habits amid a difficult economic climate.

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“The whole family has decided to pare down and do stockings only,” said local resident Lorna Corman.

“I’m just kind of limiting my purchases to things I know people really want, keeping it fairly small,” said Rebekka Augustine, another local resident.

According to an Ipsos poll done for the Bank of Montreal, Canadians are planning to significantly scale back on the holiday spending with a whopping 78 per cent planning to buy fewer gifts this year.

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The poll also reveals that 45 per cent will be spending less while 26 per cent plan on buying for fewer people.

Click to play video: 'New surveys find less holiday spending, strong online shopping'
New surveys find less holiday spending, strong online shopping

At Strut Footware and Apparel,  it’s loyal customers operators hope carry them through the season.

“There are not many shoe stores in Kelowna, so I feel like we might be okay but there’s definitely a little bit of concern for sure, ” said manager Magdalene Marini.

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At the nearby Crystal Ark store, a similar sentiment was echoed.

“It means that we’re going to have to work harder to get people into the store,” said Daneaya Ziolkoski. “We have to make sure that everybody knows that we’re here and just do our best to do what we can.”

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) is concerned but optimistic at the same time.

“I think every retailer is concerned about it because it impacts our business directly,” said Greg Wilson, Retail Council of Canada’s director of government relations.

But according to RCC, its own survey conducted in conjunction with Leger Research shows many Canadians are planning to spend modestly more, aware that most goods have gone up.

‘What that tells us is that Canadians are anticipating spending more this holiday season but they are being cautious,” Wilson said. “They’re looking for sales. They’re looking for deals, a number of them purchase things early and they’re doing a good job of planning and budgeting their expenses.”

Blanleil curious to see how the holiday shopping season unfolds.

“It’s going to be an interesting next couple of months,” Blanleil said. “You know, we’ve reduced our buying to make sure that we’re not going to be over-inventoried as well. So, you know, we’re being conservative, but we’re also always super aggressive and make sure that we want our piece of the pie and that we want to make sure we’re giving our customers a really good value.”

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Retailers are hoping shoppers support local shops as much as possible to help cushion the potential financial blow.

“Shop local because everyone just tends to gravitate to online sales or Amazon shopping, just for conveniences, but we so appreciate… just supporting local. It’s so, so helpful,” said Marini.

Click to play video: 'Small retailers look back on the 2023 business year'
Small retailers look back on the 2023 business year

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