Last updated on October 6, 2021

COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to be lifted across Canada, but sadness increasingly defines how Canadians feel about their situation

Caddle has been tracking the emotions felt by our 10,000 member daily survey panel in response to COVID since February. The most recent data shows a 43% increase in the proportion of Canadians reporting sadness associated with social distancing.

But one of the ways consumers are dealing with the COVID blues is by looking to retail therapy as a means to raise their spirits. Nearly one in three Canadians are planning a spending spree in the next month.

Here’s what we learned this week.

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Social distancing is getting us down

Since the early days of the crisis we have been tracking what emotion our panel most associate with both social distancing and coronavirus more generally.

When we asked on March 18, 57.9% of Canadians chose anxiety as the emotion they most associate with coronavirus.  By May 15, this had fallen to 46.4% — much closer to the 41% we recorded on February 29th.

When it comes to social distancing, the picture is one of rising sadness. On March 25, 30.4% of our panel identified sadness as the emotion they most associated with social distancing. This rose to 43.5% when we asked on May 15 — an increase of over 40%.

This suggests that over two months of severely reduced social interaction is starting to get Canadians down.

Could a shopping spree help?

It is against this backdrop that we asked our panel about their spending plans in the month ahead. 

We found that increasingly there will be a role for shopping as a way to lift Canadians’ spirits through such a tough time.

Caddle data shows that 44% of Canadians look to retail therapy as a means to improve their mood, while 40% of our panel say that a spending spree can make them feel happy or excited. 

Now that retail stores are beginning to open up again, our data suggests that this retail therapy will become a significant factor in the next month.

Even in the earlier stages of the pandemic, we had identified this mechanism. At the start of April we learned that a third of Canadians had made purchases they considered a treat or luxury to keep their spirits up during social distancing. 

Now, across all respondents on our panel, 31% say they planning an online shopping spree in the next month.

When we look specifically at panel members who told us they use shopping to improve their mood, this rises to 52.7% of people planning a shopping spree in the next month.

Those who are more likely to believe in the morale boosting power of shopping are much more likely to be planning discretionary purchases in the next month.

It is also important to note that we asked specifically about online purchases and asked the question before the announcement that Ontario retail locations would be permitted to reopen on May 19.

What could these shopping sprees look like?

Clothing is likely to be the biggest category to benefit from this trend. Looking specifically at those who told us they were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to go on a shopping spree in the next month, 51% selected this category where they make retail therapy purchases. 

Home and garden was second with 17.0% planning spending in this area.

While clothing is a significant category across all demographics, there are variations elsewhere. Males are just as likely to treat themselves an electronics purchase as a clothing purchase (about 1 in 3), while older Canadians over-index on retail therapy with home and garden purchases (23%).

How much will we spend?

The vast majority of these planned spending sprees will be under $200.  49.9% of those planning a spending spree told us they planned to spend less than $100, with a further 36.4% looking to keep their purchases under $200.

Main Takeaways

No.1 |
We’re moving beyond ‘essentials only’ shopping

Earlier in the pandemic we recorded that cutting back on non-essential items was the key tactic Canadians were using to save money. That a significant minority are now starting to think about discretionary spending sprees suggests we might be moving into a new phase, where consumers feel more confident about making non-essential purchases. 

No.2 |
The next month is crucial for online vs in-store

This data showed a third of Canadians planning an online shopping spree. However as stores begin to reopen, will these purchases migrate in store instead? Where this spending ends up taking place will be a significant indicator of the role eCommerce will play in the medium term in Canada

No.3 |
We’re ready for positive vibes

Despite the rising reports of COVID-related sadness, this data suggests that many Canadians are looking for those moments of joy and positivity. This is no doubt boosted by some restrictions starting to be eased. We’re looking for things that will lift our mood and there is an opportunity for brands to be part of that positivity.

*Disclaimer: all data presented is owned by Caddle and has a Margin of Error of 1% or lower.

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