How COVID-19 has changed Canadians’ shopping habits


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

I’ve always enjoyed online shopping, but COVID-19 has put us in some uncharted economic waters that are difficult for many and has limited much of Canada’s non-essential shopping to the internet. Should we be cyber-spending right now? Canadians are still buying, just differently than they did before. Being physically distant has impacted how much we’re spending, what we’re buying and why.     

Shopping in survival mode

According to Steve Bridge, an advice-only Certified Financial Planner with Money Coaches Canada in Vancouver, BC, most people have cut spending back to necessities. Bridge explains: “Extra-curricular activities, eating out, entertainment and events have all been cancelled.” As well, caution and the conditions of physical distancing have Canadians holding back on making most big-ticket purchases, he says. It’s difficult to buy and sell houses, RVs or vehicles while physically distancing, and Canadians prefer a stable economy before investing in costly items—and “nobody knows how long this will last, or what the economy will look like after the pandemic.”

Many have no choice but to preserve cash flow in survival mode simply to pay for essentials and are struggling to get by, while others, like healthcare workers, have no time to spend money. 

Boredom busting

At the same time, Toronto’s Jessica Moorhouse, an accredited personal financial counsellor, says she’s noticed some Canadians are shopping online for things to treat themselves in an attempt to ease frustration and boredom. “Those who are privileged to still have their full income haven’t changed a lot in how much they spend; just where they spend it.” she says. 

What are people spending on right now? Moorhouse says restaurant take-out and meal kits aren’t being bought as often as before Coronavirus. She’s seeing more money going towards self-care (including psychotherapy), home décor to beautify our surroundings, and kitchen items for the increase in cooking and baking at home. Moorhouse also reveals her work on clients’ budgets surprisingly doesn’t show a big increase in grocery bills. She rationalizes we’re stocking up each time we buy essentials, which can feel more expensive than frequent trips to the store for only a few items.   

Bridge has noticed an increase in buying gear for outdoor activities, especially bicycles and the cost to get them serviced or tuned; small home improvement materials; gardening items; and, of course, alcohol. He also points out an increase in buying online entertainment, like streaming movies, online gaming and even some gambling. 

“We’ve recently bought an above-ground pool and a propane fire pit for outdoor family time,” says Kyla Cornish of Cranbrook, B.C., who agrees with the financial pros’ assessments. Like a lot of parents, she says her online shopping is focused on keeping her two kids entertained at home now and through the summer. 

In Toronto, Heather Jones took to the Internet to purchase some inexpensive arts and crafts supplies for herself. “Tracking the package gives me something to look forward to, and completing the craft gives me a feeling of accomplishment,” she says. 



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