Canadians in spending mode

A BMO holiday outlook suggests Canadians’ spending spirits have improved this season, with the bank projecting an average 15 per cent jump in holiday spending over last Christmas.

A BMO holiday outlook suggests Canadians’ spending spirits have improved this season, with the bank projecting an average 15 per cent jump in holiday spending over last Christmas.

The Bank of Montreal’s 2012 Holiday Spending Outlook finds that survey respondents plan to spend an average of $1,610 this holiday season, up from $1,397 in 2011.

Shoppers surveyed say they plan to shell out an average of $674 for gifts this year, compared to an average of $583 last year.

The top reasons for spending more are having more people to shop for and being better off financially.

Spending on trips is also projected to increase, while amounts allocated for entertaining were expected to fall from a year ago.

Nearly half of respondents say they’ll set a loose budget, while three-in-ten say they plan on sticking to a firm budget.

Other analysts weighing in on holiday spending this year also believe Canadians will be more generous with their finances.

A report released last week by Ernst & Young predicted Canadian holiday sales would rise 3.5 per cent over last year, supported by signs of improvement in consumer confidence.

And a study from Deloitte projected Canadians will spend one to two per cent more this holiday season, but an increasing number will check for the best prices online before they head to the mall in a season it expects to be highly price competitive.

Last year, sales were restrained by high household debt, modest wage growth and turbulent global markets.

But the economy has improved slightly since then and consumers appear more willing to open their wallets.

A survey conducted by BMO in January found households kept holiday spending in check, with 76 per cent spending less or the same on holiday gifts, trips and entertaining than in 2010.

Another boost to holiday sales this year could come from new sales pitches by toy makers, suggested Gerrick Johnson, a toy analyst with BMO Capital Markets.

“Consumers this year will benefit from a number of new tactics that retailers have implemented: hot toy reservation systems, more aggressive price match programs, same-day online delivery, and earlier and cheaper layaway,” said Johnson.

“These moves should help toy sales by making more expensive items more accessible, making all items easier to buy. They are also likely to entice earlier sales, which should help lift toy sales throughout the holiday season.”

One-in-five respondents to the BMO survey — conducted by Pollara among 1,000 Canadians — said they didn’t plan on creating a budget at all.

And more than half (53 per cent) admitted to making impulsive purchases during the holiday season.A majority of respondents, or 68 per cent, said they plan to begin shopping before December and 30 per cent said they planned to start prior to November.

Women were twice as likely as men to start shopping before November.

“For most Canadians, the holiday season can be an expensive time of year and one where prudent and responsible financial planning is essential,” said Su McVey, vice-president of marketing at BMO.

“Putting a holiday-specific budget in place ahead of time that sets clear spending limits can keep Canadians from over-extending themselves, and ensure other financial responsibilities and goals stay on track.”

A majority of respondents, or 68 per cent, said they plan to begin shopping before December and 30 per cent said they planned to start prior to November.

Women were twice as likely as men to start shopping before November.

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