Canadian holiday spending higher, but could slow

Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:07pm EST
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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - Early data suggests Canadian consumers are spending more this Christmas than last year, but experts say the surprisingly large gains may not hold through to the end of the crucial holiday shopping season.

From November 25 to December 19, consumer spending, including travel and entertainment as well as retail, rose 4.6 percent over last year, according to data released on Thursday by card payment processor Moneris Solutions.

The data, which is collected from merchants open at least a year, shows that department store sales rose 7.4 percent, while apparel was 3.1 percent higher and specialty retail advanced 0.5 percent.

"There's a number of things going on that tend to distort the picture. One is that retailers have started promoting earlier this year," said Ed Strapagiel, executive vice-president at KubasPrimedia, a market research firm in Toronto.

"People might simply be wrapping it up early, as opposed to actually spending more."

Daniel Baer, national retail industry leader at Ernst & Young, agreed.

"We saw a lot more promotions this year in Canada around U.S. events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday," he said. "There are some sales that I think moved a little bit forward into the month of November."

Indeed, the Moneris data confirms that U.S.-style pre-holiday promotions are spreading northward. Canadian retail sales were up 8.3 percent and 15.4 percent on Black Friday and Cyber Monday respectively.   Continued...