BMO Bank of Montreal
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BMO Bank of Montreal

August 26, 2015 06:00 ET

Canadian Businesses Adjusting to Tighter Budgets of Back-to-School Shoppers; Spending Down 25 Per Cent From Two Years Ago: BMO Report

- Overall spending down to $323 from $428 in 2013

- Despite having the highest percentage of people planning to shop for back to school (59 per cent), those in Atlantic Canada plan to spend the least ($211)

- BMO Economics says that fewer trips south of the border for shopping could provide a silver lining

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Aug. 26, 2015) - A back-to-school survey, released today by BMO Bank of Montreal, found that just over half of Canadians plan to shop (54 per cent), down from two thirds (62 per cent) in 2013. Those shopping for post-secondary students continue to lead the way with an average of $369 per child.

The report, conducted by Pollara, revealed that Atlantic Canada and Ontario lead the way with the percentage of people planning to shop for back-to-school such as supplies and clothing (59 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively). Meanwhile, the Prairie provinces and Quebec plan to spend the most on average ($445 and $419, respectively).

"Businesses in general are noticing a softening in overall sales this year, but are optimistic in their ability to adapt to a slower business environment," said Doug Palmer, Regional Vice-president, Commercial Banking, GTA Division, BMO Bank of Montreal. "This season in particular presents an opportunity for small businesses, with Target, a mega retailer popular with back to school shoppers, exiting the Canadian market."

A Silver Lining for Businesses? Trips South of the Border for Shopping Are Far More Costly Than a Few Years Ago

An economic outlook on the Canadian dollar revealed a 20 per cent decrease in the number of Canadians travelling south of the border since the early 2013 peak of nearly 5 million per month.

"While overall Canadian spending on back to school is down, the lower loonie is likely to lead to more of that spending remaining in Canada and more U.S. visitors are arriving as well, which could provide some offsetting sales boost for retailers," said Doug Porter, Chief Economist, BMO Financial Group.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians travelling to the U.S. was down 1.3 per cent from May to 3.8 million trips. Meanwhile, U.S. residents made 1.9 million trips to Canada in June, a 3.3 per cent rise from May - the highest level in over seven years. The data agency also noted that this tourist trend is likely to continue.

Overall Spending Down to $323 from $428 in 2013

Regional Back to School Spending (Per Child)
National ATL QC ON MB/SK AB BC
Amount being spent on children in kindergarten/elementary school $158 $265 $166 $134 $159 $149 $167
Amount being spent on children in junior/high school $215 $181 $262 $206 $183 $230 $154
Amount being spent on children in post-secondary/university $369 $189 $616 $270 $476 $322 $321

Let's Make a Deal: Canadians Looking for Thrifty Ways to Save

The report also found that almost all Canadians who will be shopping (94 per cent) are looking to get thriftier in their back-to-school spending habits, with 54 per cent looking for deals or using coupons, and half (50 per cent) comparing prices at different stores. Almost half (45 per cent) said they will buy only what is absolutely essential, while fewer than one fifth (16 per cent) said they'll look to shop more online.

Despite the move to be more spending-conscious, only 24 per cent said they will be setting a firm budget.

"Retailers will need to adapt to the changing landscape of both the economy and consumers' spending habits," added Mr. Palmer. "Loyalty or reward programs or special seasonal deals can offer an added bonus to parents and/or relatives who are looking to get the most out of their dollar."

BMO is Here to Help With Tips and Advice for Consumers Heading Into the Busy Shopping Season

Capitalize on discounts and coupons: Retailers may offer special deals during the back-to-school season. Look for promotional coupons on items you need either online or in flyers before you shop.

Save Ahead of Time to Prepare for the Added Expenses: The BMO Savings Builder Account can help get you into the habit of saving ahead of busy shopping seasons like back-to-school to provide additional funds for items you may need.

Maximize earning potential by paying for purchases using your rewards credit card: Pay for your budgeted purchases using your rewards credit card, such as the BMO SPC CashBack MasterCard, or to unlock its earning potential; but remember to pay your balance in full each month to ensure you are not overspending.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817, BMO Financial Group is a highly diversified financial services provider based in North America. With total assets of approximately $672 billion as of July 31, 2015, and more than 47,000 employees, BMO provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and services to more than 12 million customers and conducts business through three operating groups: Personal and Commercial Banking, Wealth Management and BMO Capital Markets.

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