With the holiday season just around the corner, shoppers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are thinking up creative ways to save on gifts and support local, while feeling financial pressures.
In general, shoppers say they expect to spend the same amount on the holidays as they usually do, but Ed McHugh, a business professor in Halifax, says both retailers and consumers are “stretching it out.”
One party is trying to get to the numbers they want, he says, while the other is trying to stay within personal budgets.
“People started shopping earlier, you’re seeing people going to shop around more, looking for a better bargain,” McHugh says. “You’re going to see retailers, and we’ve already seen this, with product out earlier.”
One business that started getting in the holiday spirit early this year is Gifts Galore on Main Street in Moncton.
“We have found Christmas used to kick off with Thanksgiving, and this year it kicked off on Labour Day,” says Steve Clerke, co-owner.
“People were coming and asking, ‘Where’s your trees?’ ‘Where’s your ornaments?’ on Labour Day.”
Clerke says he has never seen shoppers so eager.
“People are again, wanting happy times,” He says. “We’ve been cooped up for three years, and so it’s time to get out and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas.”
According to retail analyst and CEO of CustomerLabs, Jim Danahy, Atlantic Canadians spend 10 to 15 per cent more on holiday gifts than the national spending average.
However, he says much of this is due to having a high HST and cost of living.
“Not all Canadians are equal and in this case, in terms of household incomes or whatnot, we’re the poorest region in the country and we’ve got the highest taxes and burdens,” Danahy says.
Danahy adds that over the pandemic, the independent sector took a hit that some retailers didn’t recover from.
“Our options for where we will shop is also limited in the sense that the cornerstores, and the small dress shops and independents, got hollowed out,” he says.
On the other hand, Danahy says shopping local will always be important to Atlantic Canadians, even following the height of the pandemic, something Bookmark on Spring Garden Road bore witness to.
“We weren’t sure once everything went back to normal whether they would stay physically shopping in a small bookstore, but they have,” says the store’s manager, Michael Hamm.
“I think it’s our culture, especially with books and storytelling. We come from a culture of storytellers, so I think people do look at books as a perfect gift.”
Danahy says spending more on the holidays is not always a bad thing on a regional scale.
“If we can patronize local with comparable value, this may be something where Atlantic Canadians can make a bigger contribution than the more densely populated parts of the country,” he says. “And, you know, you’re helping your neighbour.”
McHugh says the difference between regular shopping and holiday shopping is an emotional factor that makes it difficult to stay on budget, but not impossible.
He advises taking an extra day or two to think about a purchase before making it.
“Our emotions are funny things especially when it comes to gifts. And so you just got to be careful,” He says. “I sound like Scrooge, but you gotta keep it in mind ‘cause January shows up and your Visa statement, or your Mastercard or whatever…and so then you start to feel a bit of the pinch.”
Taking a look at the big picture, some people have adopted techniques to save money, while still prioritizing friends and family.
On Monday morning, several shoppers on Spring Garden Road brought up the idea of making homemade presents and taking advantage of sales, while others noted ‘Secret Santa’ draws as a means of spreading the joy without breaking the bank.
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