Back-to-school spending to increase approximately 4% in Canada

Consumers to tune out the headlines during back-to-school season

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(Montréal, 22 August 2018) Back-to-school spending in Canada this year is set to increase by approximately 4% over last year, according to EY. This expected increase follows on the heels of very strong retail sales in 2017.

Retailers must focus on providing today’s parent with an experience centered on choice, speed, ease, value and inspiration – not just a product – to be successful.

“Canadian retail sales are off to a strong start in 2018, and we expect the trend to continue through the back-to-school season,” says Ted Salter, EY Canada Consumer Products and Retail Leader. “A confident consumer, strong employment, population growth and a low but stable Canadian dollar are all expected to drive spending across the country, with few exceptions.”

The back-to-school sales forecast varies by region. British Columbia will continue to lead retail sales, with above average results anticipated in Ontario and Quebec as well. Sales in Alberta are expected to be in line with the national average, while the other Prairie provinces and Atlantic region will likely be below the national average. 

“As parents focus on their children’s education, concerns over NAFTA, tariff and geopolitical uncertainty are not expected to influence consumer spending in the short term,” says Daniel Baer, EY Canada Consumer Products and Retail Assurance Leader. “That doesn’t mean consumer expectations aren’t changing. The path to purchase continues to evolve, and retailers will need to keep up by being cognizant of how consumers make their buying decisions.” 

Online purchases, either on mobile smartphones or increasingly on voice-activated devices, remain important as parents seek the ease of online orders and in-store pick-up. But regardless of channel, consumers are looking for a frictionless shopping experience, while prioritizing transactions that offer convenience, special deals and personalization.

“Retailers need to view physical stores and their online presence as part of one ecosystem, and not as separate channels – consumers expect nothing less,” says Salter. “Successful retailers will be those that offer comprehensive solutions to consumer needs.”

For many retailers, back-to-school is still the second most important sales season. Companies continue to offer tantalizing promotions on supplies, clothing and footwear and electronics to attract consumers – starting earlier in the summer every year.

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