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The evolution of consumer behaviour in Canada since COVID-19

Jo Loup Apr 19, 2023 10:15:00 AM
consumer behaviour

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on various aspects of our lives. How we shop, eat, and interact with businesses has all been affected. As Canadians have adapted to the new normal brought about by the pandemic, their purchase behaviour has seen significant changes. With help from SalesPRO and the Numeris’ RTS survey, we will explore the evolution of consumer behaviour in Canada since COVID-19.

This analysis looks at the latest RTS Fall 2022 survey, which is comprised of respondent data from September 2021 to July 2022 and compares this to the Fall 2021 survey. 


The rise of ecommerce

One of the most noticeable changes in Canadian shopping habits since COVID-19 has been the surge in online shopping. With lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, Canadians turned to ecommerce for their shopping needs. According to Statistics Canada, from February 2020 to July 2022, retail e-commerce sales increased by 67.9%.

However, despite this growth in ecommerce, the RTS survey shows that Canadians still prefer to shop in-store. In the Fall 2022 survey, 54% of Canadians aged 12 or higher agree that they prefer to shop in-store for the customer experience, whereas, 37% of them prefer the convenience of shopping online. 

The difference is even greater in Quebec where 60% prefer to shop in-store as opposed to 34% online. The major difference in preference is with younger Canadians. We see that amongst the 18-34 age group 48% prefer to shop online with 41% preferring in-store.

Also, based on the latest RTS survey, shopping in malls has increased by 31% compared to last year. Approximately one-third of Canadian adults say they have shopped in a mall in the past month. This increase is even more pronounced in Ontario. 29% of Canadians in this province have visited a mall in the past month, compared to only 16% last year.



Shifts in spending by category

When it comes to how much Canadians’ purchasing decisions differ across the various categories the RTS data shows that some of the patterns that emerged during the pandemic are continuing. Spending on items for the home such as furniture, garden supplies, and toys/games continues to grow. In addition, the average amount spent on cross-border shopping in the US continues to fall.

There is also some growth in spending in certain categories that suffered during the pandemic – eg spending on party supplies increased 17% compared to last fall (and is up 22% in Quebec), and spending at hair salons was up 5%.

Average category spend ($, all Canadians aged 12+)


We can also see a significant increase in the amount spent in restaurants. The monthly amount spent for pleasure/personal reasons increased by 18% and for business reasons it increased by 56% compared to last year. This is hardly surprising when almost half of Canadians say they ate in a restaurant in the past month compared to only 21% last year.

Interestingly, this increase in restaurant visits doesn't seem to have had an impact on delivery services such as Skip the Dishes and Uber Eats. 16% of Canadians claim to have used such a service in the past month, no change from last year.


Impact of inflation on consumer behaviour.

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The pandemic caused a shift in spending priorities for Canadians and now the rise in the cost of living is further influencing consumer behaviour. With financial uncertainties and the fear of a potential recession, many Canadians have become more mindful of their spending habits.

Only 21% of Canadians say they enjoy being extravagant/indulgent which is down 5% vs last year (and down 24% with Canadian teens). When asked whether they agree with the statement “I am more of a spender than a saver” only 22% agreed in Fall 2022 compared with 24% the year before and 26% in 2020.

We can see that Canadian shoppers have become more price-conscious, opting for budget-friendly options. 56% of Canadians aged 12+ have shopped in a dollar store in the past month, an increase of 14% year on year, and 31% have shopped through an online classified website, an increase of 10% compared to last year.

The RTS data also shows that monthly grocery spending has increased 7% year on year for the average household. And increasingly, Canadians are worried about not having enough to retire on. 44% of Canadians aged 35-54 agreed with this statement in the RTS Fall 2022 survey (an increase of 5% compared to last year).


Environmental issues in relation to consumer behaviour

The pandemic seemed to heighten awareness about environmental and social issues. Last year the RTS survey showed that Canadian consumers found it more important to buy products from socially-responsible/ environmentally-friendly companies. They were also more willing to pay higher prices for eco-friendly products and support Canadian retailers when shopping online. These factors have all dropped in importance in the latest Fall 2022 survey (see below)

% of Canadians aged 12+ who agree with the following statements


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in consumer behaviour in Canada. The growth in ecommerce seems to be plateauing as Canadians return to shopping in-store. However, economic uncertainty is having an impact on purchasing decisions which we will continue to review with future survey releases.

SalesPRO is used here to analyze the Numeris RTS survey. If you would like more information on this software please contact your Account Executive.

This post was originally published in October 2021 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy.