Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Back-to-School Sales to Edge Up 2.5 per Cent This Year, Analysts Predict

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Back-to-School Sales to Edge Up 2.5 per Cent This Year, Analysts Predict

Article excerpt

Back-to-school sales to grow 2.5%: analysts

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TORONTO - With the start of classes mere weeks away, the scramble to stock up on everything from laptops to shoes is on.

But analysts predict that back-to-school sales will grow only modestly this year compared to last, as consumer confidence remains low and Canadian retailers face growing competition from south of the border.

Back-to-school spending is set to increase by 2.5 per cent in Canada this year compared to last year, according to recent data from Ernst & Young.

Daniel Baer, national retail industry leader at the firm, said while the increased spending is in line with population growth and inflation, it is much lower than the 6.5 per cent increase in pre-recession seasonal spending seen from 2006 to 2007.

Baer said hesitant shoppers may be reacting to stories about how Canadians are too indebted and living beyond their means.

"Consumers' low confidence level means they are careful, looking for bargains despite brand loyalty, and aren't hesitant to compare prices before buying," said Baer.

Mark Satov, founder of management consulting firm Satov Consultants Inc., said he isn't surprised by the prediction of modest growth, considering the high level of uncertainty among consumers.

"Every time we think we're coming out of the recession, we have something else that shakes consumer confidence," said Satov.

"People are worried about the American economy, they're worried about the European economy, they're worried about the housing slump. Since the recession, we've not really had a sustained period of great confidence."

Increased competition from south of the border as a growing number of Canadians opt to buy online from U.S. retailers or cross the border in order to take advantage of lower prices could also play a role in the decrease in spending.

Baer said Canadian retailers are feeling the pressure of higher exemptions for duty-free shopping south of the border.

As of June, Canadians staying in the U.S. overnight can now bring $200 worth of merchandise home, up from the previous limit of $50. For those travelling for two to seven days, the limit has doubled to $800, from $400. …

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