Inflation has Canadians rethinking what they purchase, including food

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Canadians are changing their spending habits in response to inflation and the rapidly escalating costs of food, gasoline and other essential goods and services, according to a survey by the EY Future Consumer Index.

More than half of shoppers are switching to private label brands for fresh and packaged food, close to 40 per cent are prioritizing experiences over buying physical goods and 61 per cent plan to save money for their future instead of splurging on non-essentials.

At grocery retail, shoppers are gravitating more to discount banners too.

And while the rising costs of goods and services impacts 81 per cent of lower-income earners, the survey reveals it’s also affecting 50 per cent of middle-income earners and 35 per cent of high-income earners.

“The fabric of daily life has shifted in many ways — from where people travel and seek entertainment, to how they work and meet their needs. These significant shifts, coupled with inflation, are driving consumers at all income levels to change their shopping behaviors and rethink purchase decisions,” says Lokesh Chaudhry, EY Canada Consumer co-leader. “To be relevant in the future and drive customer loyalty, companies need to better understand the growing range of consumer needs, eliminate pain points and quickly respond with the right offering at the right price.”

Experiences rather than goods are driving spend

“People are beginning to focus on the parts of their life where they feel they have more control, including how they use their time and money and how they can improve their health and mental well-being,” explains Ryan Beck, EY Canada Consumer co -leader. “The modest post-pandemic lifestyle that many consumers plan to live is one that puts a higher value on experiences, with over a quarter of Canadians pivoting to spend more on this category rather than physical goods.”

Preferences for how consumers choose to enjoy different experiences will push retailers to explore new and innovative ways to reach their audience.

With two-thirds of Canadians preferring at-home experiences, companies will need to identify and invest in emerging digital capabilities to be able to deliver the experience directly to the consumer. On the other hand, customers who are willing to venture out are demanding more from physical stores, with a quarter planning to only visit stores that offer a great experience.

“In line with the growing desire for simplicity and flexibility, the most appealing experiences will be those that are easy to access and take minimal time investment — that means more digital touchpoints, frictionless brand experiences and personalized consultations in the metaverse,” suggests Chaudhry.

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