Canadian Holiday Shoppers Take to the Internet

Canadian consumers are seeking refuge online from crowded shopping malls this holiday season, according to Ernst & Young’s fourth annual Global Online Retailing study.

The study was based on a survey of 4,571 online shoppers in 12 countries. It found that, worldwide, the shoppers have spent an average of $1,100 on the Internet over the last 12 months, compared to $890 in Canada. The 474 Canadians who’ve shopped online in the last 12 months surveyed estimate they will spend 14 percent of their total holiday spending dollars over the Internet, up from just 7 percent a year ago, representing a 100 percent increase. Despite planning to double their online holiday shopping, Canadian consumers will still spend less than half the amount their US counterparts will spend. US online consumers plan to spend 29 percent of their total holiday purchases over the Internet.

The holiday shopping study was conducted as part of Ernst & Young’s Global Online Retailing study of more than 7,000 consumers in 12 countries.

The study also found that the number of people conducting at least some of their shopping online will increase significantly. In 2000, three-quarters of Canadian online consumers plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping online, up from slightly less than half (49 percent) of all online shoppers in 1999. Conversely, the number of Canadian online consumers who have no plans to shop online during the holidays dropped from 52 percent last year to 25 percent this year.

The most popular Canadian Web sites for online purchases over the last 12 months include Sears.ca, Amazon.com, FutureShop.ca and eBay.com. The most popular Canadian online categories from which consumers purchased over the last 12 months include computers (46 percent), books (45 percent) and CDs (34 percent). Factors influencing Canadian consumers to take to the Internet for shopping include over-crowded shopping malls (62 percent), more convenient hours (60 percent), and time efficiency (56 percent).

Despite Canadians’ increasing openness to online shopping, however, an informal poll among CIPS (Canadian Information Processing Society) Toronto members reports that while half (54 percent) of the respondents planned on using the Internet to research Christmas gift ideas, a whopping 60 percent won’t be making purchases this year over the Internet, preferring instead to pay at a cash register.

While concern over financial transactions security over the Internet was not a major issue among 83 percent of respondents, the Internet’s inability to match the retail experience was. Touching and feeling the merchandise was cited as the most important aspect of shopping in a store, as well as the “Christmas atmosphere and spirit” that only a live retail experience can offer.

According to research by NFO Interactive Canada, a division of CF Group Inc., one in four Canadians will do some of their holiday shopping on the Internet this year, spending $257 on average, and bringing the value of total online holiday shopping for the year to $800 million.

Other findings from NFO Interactive Canada study, which surveyed 1,023 online Canadian adults in October and November, include:

  • The predominance of males among online shoppers in Canada is subsiding. The proportion of female online shoppers has grown from 40 percent in May 2000 to 44 percent today.
  • The more time people spend online, and the more familiar they become with it, the more likely they are to make purchases online.
  • Books (purchased by 44 percent of all adult online shoppers) remain the most sought after online commodity, followed by computer-related items and music.
  • A conservative estimate puts the amount spent by an average Canadian online shopper at approximately $336 in the past 12 months, bringing the value of e-shopping by Canadians to approximately $2.3 billion. Over the next 12 months, Canadians plan to spend on average $391 in purchases over the Internet, which translates into an online retail market of close to $3 billion.

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