Here’s where Canadians spent the most money during COVID-19 pandemic

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As the COVID-19 pandemic enters year two, a lot has changed in the day-to-day lives of Canadians. Not only have they adapted to the new norms of distanced socializing and working from home, most of them have also revised their spending needs to conform to the changing demands of the pandemic.

While many people suffered financial hardships due to pandemic lockdowns, others had the enviable task of deciding what to do with money that would otherwise have paid for commuting costs, events or holiday expenses.

Peter Goldsztajn, director of Corporate Data Analytics at Moneris, told Global News that in the past year, a large section of Canadians spent a considerable amount of money — funds that would have otherwise been spent on travel, dining or entertainment — on “home improvements and outdoor recreation” equipment.

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The imposition of restrictions on the travel and hospitality industry has caused “a shift in spending behaviour” of Canadians, Goldsztajn noted.

According to fresh data shared with Global News by Moneris, swimming pool sales saw a volume increase of 51 per cent from June to September 2020, while sales of home supply and warehouse materials saw an increase by 31 per cent. Bicycle shopping volumes spiked too, by 21 per cent.

During the early months of the pandemic — from February to May 2020 — Canadian households spent “predominantly at grocery stores on toilet paper and pantry items,” as more Canadians were making meals at home due to restaurant closures, the findings stated.

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While Statistics Canada retail numbers for December — the most recent numbers available — show that the last year was “crushing” for many retailers, especially those deemed non-essential by governments across Canada, that wasn’t the case for all businesses.

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“A sharp split in sector fortunes occurred as core retail sales increased by 4.5 per cent,” said Michelle Wsylyshen,  spokesperson for Retail Council of Canada.

“Sectors that attracted increased consumer spending like supermarkets, general merchandise and building supplies, performed better in 2020 than in 2019,” Wasylyshen remarked.

The summer months, however, saw an increase in spending on outdoor recreation, and the onset of October “prompted Canadians to spend on indoor home improvements,” according to Moneris findings.

Goldsztajn echoed those findings.

The household category dominated spending with a “nearly 20 per cent increase in volumes” compared to the fall of 2019, he said.

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Based on the findings, “fireplace stores saw a 22 per cent increase in volume in October, while household appliance volumes increased by 27 per cent,” followed by furniture and home furnishing volumes that saw a “20 per cent rise.”

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Trends from early January 2021 also show that “Canadians are gearing up for a summer in lockdown,” Goldsztajn said.

“Boat rental and lease volumes have increased by 227 per cent as compared to last January,” he said. “Recreational and utility trailer sales too, have seen a sharp 68 per cent rise,” he added.

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The last year saw several businesses closed to in-person shopping and as a result, many Canadians had to adapt to shopping online. However, when they did shop in-store, data shows that they were “more likely to use contactless payment.”

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“The findings also project that most Canadians made fewer shopping trips and spent more per visit than they did prior to the pandemic,” Goldsztajn noted.

The average transaction size grew 11.7 per cent in April 2020 following lockdown measures as the limit for tap payments hit $250. Contactless transaction volumes also saw “a rise of 32 per cent across credit and debit cards year-over-year by the third quarter of 2020,” according to Moneris data.

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