The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives in many ways. Our purchasing habits, media consumption, travel plans and of course our overall lifestyle have all been impacted. The RTS survey allows us to look at all these areas across Canada and see the differences over time and by different regions and cities.

This analysis looks at the latest RTS Fall 2020 survey, which comprises results from October 2019 to July 2020 and compares this to the Fall 2019 survey across the regions in Canada and across broad age groups (18-34, 35-54, 55-64 & 65+)

Impact of COVID-19 on Canadians' purchasing habits.

Canadians still prefer shopping in stores to online. 60% of adults say they prefer shopping at a retail store for the customer experience and this has grown in all regions, with the exception of Atlantic Canada, and across all age groups. 30% of adults say they prefer to shop online for convenience. This has grown particularly in Quebec (up 11%) and among the older age groups (up 11% among 55-64s).

Total average spending on specific retail categories shows some shifts, with the exception of ‘groceries’, which has seen no change compared to last year. 

spend by category

Canadians’ intentions around big purchases have not altered that much, with 79% of adults saying they don’t intend to move in the next 2 years (up 1%) and 68% of adults saying they are not likely to buy or lease a new car in the next 12 months (up 2%). The most significant increase in intentions to purchase is in the garden furniture category. This is up 17% across Canada, up 40% in Ontario and up 50% amongst those aged 65+.


Impact of COVID-19 on Canadians' leisure activities.

When looking at the local attractions that Canadians have visited once or more over the past year, art galleries, museums, exhibitions, video arcades & zoos have all decreased whereas city gardens & provincial parks have seen increased activity.

Canadians’ sporting and leisure activities have shifted slightly too. The top 2 activities (reading and gardening) stay the same across the regions but home exercise/workout has risen to the 3rd spot in Ontario, Prairies and B.C. Health club membership has also risen by 5% in Canada but by 14% in Quebec.

Top sporting/leisure activities (Total Canada % adults participated in the past year)

sport activities

The results from the Fall 2020 RTS survey suggest that restaurant visits are less frequent. 82% of adults say they have visited a restaurant/bar in the past year (only down 1%) yet when asked if they’d visited in the past month this fell to 62% (a drop of 10% vs last year). Unsurprisingly, restaurant spending has dropped year on year with the average amount spent for business reasons down 14% and for pleasure/personal reasons down 6%. There has been no change in the % of adults who choose take out or drive through. However, choosing to eat in the restaurant itself is down 13% and home delivery is down 4% as more people choose an online restaurant delivery service, which is up 11%.


How has COVID-19 influenced Canadian's media consumption?

The Fall 2020 RTS survey indicates that 66% of Canadian adults have a paid media subscription (up 8% vs last year). Netflix is still the most watched of these services. 67% of Canadian adults have watched in the past week (up 3% in the last year). Amazon Prime has seen the largest growth year on year with 19% of adults watching in the past week (24% in the Prairies) compared to 11% last year.

The self-reported hours of internet use have risen 9% in the Fall survey with larger increases seen amongst the older age groups (up 14% for adults aged 65+).

There have been a few shifts in reported internet activities too.

internet activities2

30% of Canadians agree that staying connected via social media is very important to them (rising to 42% among 18-34 age group). Facebook remains the most popular platform with just over half of Canadian adults using it in the past 7 days. 24% of adults say they have used Instagram in the last 7 days, an increase of 9%. There has been increased Instagram use across all age groups but adults aged 65+ saw the largest growth (20% compared to last year).

Stay tuned for our upcoming webinar in the New Year where we’ll go over this research in more detail. In the meantime, for more information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on TV and radio audience data see our in-depth blog posts:


Posted by Jo Loup

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