Consumers Flood Stores in Canada for Back-to-School Shopping Amid Uncertainty [Feature Interviews/Report]

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It’s that time of the year again as retailers across the country have been catering to a back-to-school shopper looking for everything from pencils to clothing for their children.

And while some students may already be back in school, the shopping for supplies and clothing continues.

With kids returning to school, the Retail Council of Canada’s Back-to-School 2022 Shopping Survey, indicates 86.3 per cent of Canadians make back to school purchases and apparel is the top spending category, followed by books and personal and home electronics such as smartphones and tablets.  

“Unlike the past two years, parents and students have more certainty of what back-to-school will look like this fall. As such, spending on school-related items is well underway with 42.9 per cent of respondents reporting that they make purchases between two to four weeks before the holiday,” said RCC in a news release.

Back to School 2022 Shopping in Canada Survey | National Consumer Research – Caddle & RCC
Back to School at Williams-Sonoma in CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The report also found:

  • 41.5 per cent intend to shop locally, and in person, this year versus online;
  • 77 per cent will spend more than $50;
  • Big box retailers, followed by clothing retailers, is where most consumers say they intend to make their purchases; and 
  • 32.7 per cent of Canadians specifically go shopping for back-to-school purchases.

Caddle surveyed Canadians from coast to coast in June to better understand consumers’ shopping intentions around going back to school. The survey was conducted using Caddle’s mobile platform and online panel amongst a representative randomized sample of over 9,000 Canadians.

Full results of the survey can be found here:

Back to School at The Face Shop in CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Image: Mastermind Toys

Back to school shopping also heralds in a period of shopping leading up to the holiday season.

Sarah Jordan, CEO of Mastermind Toys, said consumers have gotten savvy through the pandemic. 

Sarah Jordan

“And one thing they know is that they need to shop early. So pre-pandemic, and I’m talking about the holidays here, we noticed this trend pre-pandemic of people shopping later and later closer to the milestone holidays,” said Jordan. “And during the pandemic, certainly customers were savvy that they needed to shop early, especially because they wanted to make sure they had the gift for under the tree.

“They were very aware of the supply chain challenges. I’m predicting that this holiday season is going to look like last year where customers are going to shop early. The other thing we’re noticing is that digital is really being used to secure the top items. So while our doors are open we’ve been so excited to welcome back Canadian kids and families into our stores to see our larger than life demos, to see our window displays. So 2022 has really allowed us to be the toy store where we really can create all these moments of wonder.

“But we’re noticing that our customers are still relying on the digital channels whether it’s curbside or web for the sought-after items, whether it’s a new LEGO launch, whether it’s the hottest item of the season. They’re not waiting to get to the store to see if we still have (the product). They’re ordering it online to make sure that they can have it.”

Back to School at Staples Canada (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
Back to School at Rogers in CF Toronto Eaton Centre (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Another recent survey found that two thirds of parents and students are worried about inflation’s effect on school-related costs. 

The Angus Reid study, for Licenced Insolvency Trustees, Bromwich+Smith, surveyed 1,508 Canadians, 

Laurie Campbell

“Back to school is always a financially and emotionally draining time for parents and students,” said Laurie Campbell, director of client financial wellness at Bromwich+Smith, in a news release. “With classrooms at their highest capacity since 2019 and inflation the biggest back-to-school story, our survey shows parents and students alike are overburdened with all things financial.

“It’s important to know your upfront costs and finances, set a budget, shop around and create a school spending fund.”

The survey found that 64 per cent of parents with children in school said they were worried/stressed about the effect of inflation on the cost of the upcoming school year. Also, 73 per cent said they expect even higher prices for school supplies/books due to supply chain issues.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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