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Impact of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour in Canada

Jo Loup Oct 19, 2021 9:00:00 AM
consumer behaviour

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 2021 survey, which is comprised of respondent data from October 2020 to July 2021 and compares this to the Fall 2020 survey across the regions in Canada and across broad age groups. 


Impact of COVID-19 on Canadians' purchasing habits.

Canadians still prefer shopping in stores to online. 58% of adults say they prefer shopping at a retail store for the customer experience however this figure has dropped 2% compared to last Fall. 35% of adults say they prefer to shop online for convenience; this is up 17% vs. Fall 2020. This has grown across all the regions and among teens (up 35%) and 65+ (up 73%).

Total average spending on specific retail categories shows some shifts. The largest increase in average spend is in buying flowers (for self or as a gift for someone else) and the biggest drop is in the cross border shopping. 

Avg spending Fall 2021

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, however 12% of Canadian adults say they intend to use a renovator/contractor in the next 2 years (up 9% nationally and 11% in BC).  The most significant increase in intentions to purchase across the different product categories is in the home exercise and bicycle and bicycle equipment category. These have increased 67% and 40% respectively.


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, theme parks & zoos have all decreased significantly. Visits to parks and city gardens have decreased the least and are down 19% nationally and only down 5% in the Atlantic region.

Canadians’ sporting and leisure activities have shifted slightly too. Reading stays top of the list but home exercise rises 17% vs last year to become the joint 2nd highest activity along with gardening.

Top sporting/leisure activities (Total Canada % 12+ participated in the past year)

Leisure Fall 2021

The results from the Fall 2021 RTS survey suggest that restaurant visits are less frequent. 61% of adults say they have visited a restaurant/bar in the past year (down 26%) yet when asked if they’d visited in the past month this fell to 34% (a drop of 45% vs last year). Unsurprisingly, it’s the method of ordering food which has changed the most with take-out up 14%, home delivery up 11% and online restaurant delivery services up 45% nationwide (and in Québec have more than doubled).


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

The Fall 2021 RTS survey indicates that 72% of Canadian’s aged 12+ have a paid media subscription (up 9% vs last year). Netflix is still the most watched of these services. 73% of Canadian’s 12+ have watched in the past week (up 9% in the last year). Amazon Prime has seen significant growth year on year with 37% watching in the past week (up 95%). New entrants to the streaming market Disney+ and AppleTV have 17% and 6% of the 12+ age group watching in an average week respectively.

The self-reported hours of internet use have risen 18% in the Fall survey with largest increases seen amongst teens (up 40% to an average of almost 39 hours per week).

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

Media Fall 2021

32% of Canadians aged 12+ agree that staying connected via social media is very important to them (rising to 52% among 12-17 age group). Facebook remains the most popular platform with 47% of Canadian’s 12+ using it in the past 7 days. 27% of this group say they have used Instagram in the last 7 days, an increase of 4%. The video/photo sharing services such as TikTok have seen significant increases with 15% of 12-17 year olds using them in the past 7 days compared to only 3% in the Fall 2020 survey.

Click here to watch the latest webinar on the new RTS survey.