VANCOUVER -- COVID-19 has Canadians buckling down and tightening their belts this holiday season. Mystery shopping app Field Agent surveyed about 1,500 Canadians and found 76 per cent of them said the pandemic has affected their holiday shopping this year.

And 50 per cent of those surveyed said they plan to spend less this year compared to just seven per cent of the American shoppers Field Agent asked.

“With such a big difference between the two populations it really does seem like Canadians are taking it a bit more seriously and buckling down more,” said Jeff Doucette of Field Agent Canada.

Local retailers who have already been struggling say they are a bit worried.

“It’s awkward times so (we’re) just trying to make it as normal as possible,” said Christine Song, an employee of Vancouver-based Plenty, a clothing retailer with several locations in the Lower Mainland.

Many consumers will shop online as they try to maintain social distancing and avoid crowds. The survey showed 40 per cent of consumers most likely will shop online, but many still plan to do in-store shopping too, with 16 per cent visiting two stores, 22 per cent stopping at three and 18 per cent planning to visit six to 10. 

The bulk of spending

Amazon has seen record salesduring the pandemic and according to the survey, it will get the bulk of online holiday sales, followed by Walmart and Costco.

That means extra pressure on shipping companies. Canada Post recently posted a video online asking consumers to help to make things smoother this year.

“We’re gearing up to help you and to help them have a great ending to a very challenging year. So this holiday season, please shop early. Support your favourite retailers. And most importantly, stay safe,” Rod Hart, chief customer and marketing officer at Canada Post said in a news release last week.

You can also try ordering online and do in-store or curbside pickup to avoid shipping delays.

The future

The effects of the pandemic on holiday shopping could last well into the future and things may never be the same again for retailers.

“I think that’s going to affect brick and mortar retailers a lot over the coming years,” Doucette said.

The Better Business Bureau is urging Canadians to support small local businesses as many are struggling to hang on to staff and keep their doors open.

"Many of them continue to provide our essential services, local jobs, and are an invaluable touchpoint in our communities," Karla Laird of the BBB of Mainland B.C. said in a news release during last month's Small Business Week. "This is why now, more than ever, it is important that we make an extra effort to support our locally-owned small businesses.”