Canada Retail Holiday Survey

Holiday shoppers prioritize deals, gifts, and experiences

November 16, 2023
  • Heli Brecailo
  • James Cook
Executive Summary

This holiday shopping season presents a tale of two cities. On one hand, 39 percent of shoppers are focusing on saving money, with an average holiday budget similar to last year’s despite inflation. On the other hand, the remaining 61 percent are prioritizing the emotional and experiential aspects of the holidays, opting to increase their budgets for gifts for a more fulfilling holiday season.
Clothing, shoes, and gift cards take the spotlight as favourite gifts among holiday shoppers. Meanwhile, popular destinations for holiday experiences include shopping centres, restaurants, food courts, and movie theatres.
Shopping centres are the preferred destination and method of shopping in Canada, with 95 percent of holiday shoppers planning to visit them an average of three times over the season. Additionally, shoppers plan to spend more time there than last year, with a larger number of shoppers eating or drinking while shopping.
Dining out at a restaurant is also a popular choice among shoppers, with 93 percent of shoppers planning to eat out at a restaurant two or more times on average during this season.
Physical stores take precedence over online shopping. Big box and discount stores remain very popular, as a staggering 96 percent of shoppers are looking for deals throughout the whole season. Deal-hunters favour e-commerce, however, with Amazon heading the list of top retailers in Canada. In terms of social-media use for shopping decisions, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are the most popular platforms.


Our survey polled 1,000 online respondents throughout Canada across gender, age, ethnicity, education, income, marital status, number of children, employment status, career, and province.
Our survey was conducted in English on October 24-25, 2023.

39 percent of holiday shoppers are savers and 61 percent non-savers

Holiday shoppers can be divided into two main groups: savers and non-savers. Savers are motivated by the goal of saving money, and they actively seek out deals and discounts. Non-savers prioritize creating meaningful experiences and fostering connections with loved ones, showing a greater willingness to spend without focusing solely on saving.
Non-savers plan to outspend savers on gifts, on holiday-related merchandise like food and decorations, and on experiences or entertainment (such as dining, recreation, and travel).

Saving money remains popular, reconnecting with loved ones surges, and health takes a back seat

That 39 percent of Canadians are focusing on saving money is consistent with last year, but higher than in 2021 when inflation was not a top concern.A significant change this year is that many Canadians now prioritize connecting with their loved ones, as the act of getting friends and family what they want has leapt from the lowest priority last year to the second-highest this year, advancing 17 percentage points.

With an increased focus on friends and family, the average budget for holiday goods has risen by 16 percent

Canadians have increased their budget for holiday goods (gifts and holiday-related items) by 16 percent compared with 2022, a slight increase from 2021.
While the budget for holiday goods for savers is almost unchanged from last year, most of the increase in average budget is attributable to non-savers who extended their budgets for gifts.
In addition to emphasizing the importance of getting loved ones what they desire, many Canadians appear to be adjusting to higher prices while maintaining confidence in their job security, despite predictions of an economic downturn next year.

Canadians plan to spend 30 percent on experiences

Canadians plan to spend an average of $1,049 for their holiday budget this year, with 30 percent of that allocated to experiences.
The respondents’ income is the most influential factor in determining their overall holiday budgets. Respondents with an income above $200,000 plan to spend an average of $1,704, while those with an income below $25,000 plan to spend only $584.

Shopping centres dominate as top destination with an average of three visits per shopper

Visiting a shopping centre is the most popular activity this holiday season, with an average of approximately three visits per shopper.
Shopping centres remain highly sought-after locations, with 95 percent of shoppers planning to go to one during the season. The intention to visit shopping centres has increased from 85 percent of respondents in 2021.

Restaurants, food courts, and movie theatres are popular destinations for experiences

Dining at a restaurant, going to a food court with friends and family, and going to a movie theatre are also popular experiences this holiday season. These remain the top choices across provinces, marital status, number of children, gender, income, and age.

More shoppers will eat or drink in shopping centres

Fully 60 percent of shoppers now intend to eat or drink in shopping centres, up from 42 percent last year.

Dwell time in shopping centres continues to increase

As more shoppers plan to eat or drink in shopping centres, dwell time continues to increase, reaching an average of 65 minutes this year. In 2021, average dwell time was 50 minutes.
With fewer shoppers concerned about health and safety, short trips have become less popular. Half of shoppers plan to stay at a shopping centre between 30 and 90 minutes.

Canadians prefer to do their holiday shopping at shopping centres

Shopping centres are the top shopping method for the 2023 holiday season, surpassing other forms of physical retail and online shopping. This year 71 percent of Canadian shoppers plan to shop at a physical store located in a shopping centre. Buying from an internet-only store such as Amazon is a close second, indicated by 64 percent of shoppers.

Shoppers plan to explore two or more shopping options

On average, Canadians plan to utilize 2.5 shopping methods, highlighting the importance for retailers of having a multi-channel strategy to cater to the preferences and behaviours of highly connected shoppers.
Among those who shop in shopping centres, 67 percent also shop at an internet-only store. Likewise, 74 percent of those who shop at an internet-only store also visit shopping centres.

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