Pattie Lovett-Reid: We are unlikely to return to our old spending patterns any time soon
Liam Slater Oda, an employee with Sports Experts disenfects a bench at the store on Sainte-Catherine street in Montreal, Sunday May 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
TORONTO -- We are unlikely to return to our old spending patterns any time soon.
As businesses across the country slowly begin to open up there is a big question mark over whether Canadians will embrace their spending habits post-pandemic.
I'm not so sure they will.
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My observations suggest Canadians are hitting a re-set button and re-evaluating where they will be spending their money. While this may be good news for the household balance sheet it certainly isn't as promising for the country's financial books. People are worried. They are worried about their safety, their job and their financial risk tolerance is lower given all the uncertainty out there.
According to Morneau Shepell's Mental Health Index™ only 19 per cent cited being likely to return to previous spending habits following COVID-19. There are a number of barriers for those who are hesitant to return to previous spending habit: 39 per cent are concerned about the risk of infection from being in stores and service areas, 27 per cent feel they will be concerned about job security for a while and 22 per cent indicate that their income has changed since the pandemic began.
The Bank of Canada also just released its summer Business Outlook Survey and it was strongly negative across sectors and regions with half the firms surveyed seeing sales negative into next year. The weakness most prevalent in tourism, finance and real estate. In fact, consumer expectations for home price growth falling to zero.
As well, many have come to the conclusion they simply need less stuff. That doesn't mean there isn't some pent up demand after months of retail hibernation but the difference is the purchase will likely be more focused on what we need verses what we may have wanted in the past.
To be clear we are spending - grocery retailers have benefited and home entertainment continues to be an area we spend on. We are also enjoying meals out along with restaurant delivery. However, speak to any small business owner and things are not bouncing back as hoped or planned.
A large portion of our discretionary income for many households in the past went towards travel, shopping at malls, and even sporting events that aren't likely going to see the traction they once enjoyed for a while.
So what is going to change how we feel?
I believe it will all first come down to safety. Feeling secure about our health reinforced by medical professionals, safety measures put into place and adhered to and of course news of a vaccine.
However, even once we truly feel safe again we are still likely to be more selective on where they spend our money. Our buying patterns have shifted, where we shop and how we shop is bound to be impacted by not only our health concerns but job security as well. In other words, less income equals less spending and that is going to change our retail landscape as we once knew it in a big way.