Halloween decorations are just going up, but many Canadians' minds have already turned to the winter holidays. New data from Google shows most of us will be changing our shopping habits this Black Friday and in the lead-up to Christmas, in order to stay safe.
And retailers are taking note. Google's research shows 61 per cent of Canadian holiday shoppers are planning to do more of their shopping online this year. Some companies are introducing new features to cater to that increased demand, like Lululemon, which has introduced virtual personal shopping appointments.
"We've literally seen ten years of change over these last few months," Eric Morris, head of retail for Google Canada, told CTV News Vancouver. In March and April, he says: "E-commerce in Canada surged to about 200 per cent growth vs. the previous year. And while it's tapered off in the summer, it's still at close to 70 per cent growth. That's three times the historical average."
With Black Friday now on the horizon, 33 per cent of Canadians who usually shop in-store that day say they'll be staying home. And 30 per cent say they're nervous to shop in stores at all.
"Canadians are shopping online more than ever and starting their shopping earlier than ever as a way to ensure gifts arrive on time, make sure what they're looking for is in stock, (and) navigate social distancing and crowds in malls," Morris said.
In fact, Google's data shows 22 per cent have already started their holiday shopping, and 65 per cent say they plan to shop earlier than usual in order to avoid crowds.
Big companies like Amazon and Walmart are preparing for the onslaught of online orders by hiring more workers. Some are even pushing early Black Friday sales in order to spread shipping out over the fall months.
"Canada Post has already reported that packages shipped or Canadians buying online in April exceeded levels they hadn't seen since last holiday season," Morris said. "Leveraging curbside pickup is a really important way that you can offset some of those shipping issues."
And curbside pickup may allow you to shop more locally, at small businesses that need the cash but may not have the capacity to manage online orders. Morris says Google has seen a huge uptick in local shopping queries.
"We've seen a nearly 200 per cent increase," he said. And if you want to avoid going into stores and potentially widespread shipping delays, Google's data shows you're not alone – searches for curbside pickup were up 3,000 per cent this year over last year.
Many Canadians are also turning to gift cards. They're small, ship easily, can be bought online and will arrive fast. Thirty-one per cent said they plan to buy more gift cards this year than they have in the past.
Despite all the restrictions, concerns and public health warnings, demand for consumer goods is up and it's expected to be a busy holiday season.