Research Shows Significant Regional Differences in Online Spending in Canada

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By Mario Toneguzzi

A retail report by ClickSpend and Environics Analytics indicates online shopping differs throughout Canadian cities and for retailers that’s important information to have in making decisions about their presence in certain markets.

ClickSpend, powered by the J.C. Williams Group, is a new resource for retailers that reveals which products consumers prefer to buy online. But it also reveals differences in major markets in Canada and what products consumers are buying in those markets.

“The general pattern obviously is that ecommerce is increasing as a percentage of total retail sales and while there’s certainly variability across categories of businesses there’s variability at the local geographic level,” said Michele Sexsmith, Senior Vice President and Practice Leader with Environics.

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“So for instance, if we took a category like jewellery . . . there’s the national picture but you might see higher levels of activity in Toronto or Vancouver but there are specific pockets within each of those cities that have a great deal more ecommerce spend than other parts where bricks and mortar are more dominant. So understanding both local businesses certainly helps us understand where stores have the best opportunity for a traditional experience and which stores, maybe already in those high ecommerce areas, need to consider more experiential retail in order to have the right brand experience in order to maximize those local situations.”

She said there are a wide variety of factors that would play into the differences in Canadian cities.

A predominant one is the lifestyle of people in those cities.

Are they a well-educated group? Are they high income? Are they exposed to other brands and other retail experiences across the world because they travel? New immigrants to Canada have a very different past experience of ecommerce and a different comfort level of ecommerce. So higher concentrations of immigrants in different cities can impact the level of ecommerce spend and what they’re spending their money on.

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“Certainly Vancouver has a high level of ecommerce activity. Toronto does too at a somewhat lesser extent. The level of ecommerce in Halifax is really strong . . . We really need these types of metrics to understand what’s going on market by market and neighbourhood by neighbourhood,” said Sexsmith.

For retailers, information is a powerful tool in understanding what consumers are looking for when they make their purchases online.

The report by ClickSpend and Environics offers an example of how that data can be used. It looked at the percentage of spend that is online in Toronto and Edmonton. It showed that Edmonton has a lower overall proportion of spend which is online compared to Toronto and that has implications for which markets hold greater relative risk for bricks and mortar development.

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Toronto had a bigger percentage of spend online in the following categories: health and beauty; jewellery and watches; clothing; footwear; furniture and large appliances; electronics; children/baby toys and games; food and grocery; and games of chance.

Edmonton had a bigger percentage of spend online in the following categories: kitchen, home and related accessories; gardening, goods and supplies; entertainment; and sports and leisure equipment.

Auto parts and accessories was a category that was fairly even between the two cities.

Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary has 37 years of experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, city and breaking news, and business. For 12 years as a business writer, his main beats were commercial and residential real estate, retail, small business and general economic news. He nows works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Email: mdtoneguzzi@gmail.com

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