As businesses gear up for the busiest shopping weekend of the year, retailers have already voted the 2001 holiday shopping season a success.
A majority of retailers (65 per cent) say that holiday sales have already met or exceeded their expectations, according to the annual American Express Canadian Retail Holiday Shopping Survey. More than half (57 per cent) say they are happy with the volume of business they have done so far.
This is on par with retailer attitudes at the same point last year, which turned out to be a record season for the retail sector.
“With a downturn in the economy and fears of a deeper recession after the tragic events of Sept. 11th, many people were ready to write the year off,” says Peter Orrell of Amex Canada. “But it looks like it’s turning out much better than expected.”
In November, Amex published the results of a survey among consumers that revealed three-quarters of Canadians planned to spend the same or more on holiday shopping as last year.
Despite the generally optimistic view, one in five retailers (21 per cent) report that sales are down slightly while one in ten (11 per cent) describe sales as significantly worse than last year. Almost half (45 per cent) said that the season got off to a slower start with more people than usual leaving it to the last minute to shop.
A relatively small number of retailers (19 per cent) see the weakened economy as being a major challenge. This fits with the earlier study of consumer attitudes that showed Canadians are determined to enjoy Christmas no matter what.
Again this year, customer service and superior quality were ranked as most important features to shoppers. “With the downturn in the economy, the competition for share of Canadians’ shopping dollars has meant retailers must focus on the things that not only get customers in the door, but keep them coming back,” says Orrell.
The 2001 American Express Canadian Retail Holiday Shopping Survey is based on telephone interviews conducted among random samples of 200 retailers across Canada Dec. 13-17. Samples of this size produce national results that can be considered accurate within 7.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The research was conducted by Léger Marketing.
American Express Company provides a range of financial and travel-related services for consumers and companies.