Canadian shoppers seen dialing back this Christmas

Canadian shoppers seen dialing back this Christmas - image

“It may not be such a merry Christmas for retailers,” Ed Strapagiel, an expert on consumer shopping trends, said Monday in an annual forecast.

Retail sales trends heading into the all-important holiday season suggest many Canadian consumers are poised to dial back this year compared to last, according to Strapagiel, as many confront weak wage gains and mounting debt burdens.

“It now appears that retail sales growth is past its peak and is moderating just in time for Christmas,” the Toronto-based analyst says in a new forecast. “And the Canadian economy is not poised to help.”

While auto sales have continued to boom this year alongside some other big-ticket items, sales growth in other areas, like electronics, general merchandise stores and supermarkets has turned markedly sluggish, Strapagiel and other experts say.

The 12-month sales trend has flattened out in recent months, while the three-month average has turned lower, “indicating further softening ahead,” Strapagiel said.

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MORE: Canadians are on a big-ticket shopping spree 

Only higher auto and furniture sales – aided by a still-hot housing market and ultra-low borrowing rates – have pulled monthly retail sales higher in recent months.

Experts suggest an economy that has yet to brush off a chill created by falling commodity prices (namely oil) won’t get much of a shot in the arm from consumers this holiday season.

“Christmas sales have already started and things are shaping up to be a drawn out, profit-shaking competitive battle,” Strapagiel said. “Retailers who ordered their holiday stock on the basis of strong numbers [to start the year] might get a rude awakening.”
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WATCH: Financial expert Preet Banerjee discusses why now is the time to plan for Christmas shopping.

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