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The five ways Canadians may change in the post-pandemic world
Space available signs are shown on storefronts on Queen Street in Toronto on Thursday, April 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
WINNIPEG -- The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Canadians – from their spending habits, to the food they eat and the clothes they wear, and, according to one of Canada's largest research and analytics companies, the post-pandemic world may look a lot different.
"I think it is an understatement to say that this crisis has changed us," Christian Bourque, Leger’s executive vice president said on Thursday, during a webinar hosted by Casacom exploring Canadians’ changing behaviour.
Bourque said there will be a number of ways that Canadians' behaviour will change after the pandemic, which will have far-reaching impacts on the country's economy.
Leger does weekly national surveys with the Association of Canadian Studies. The information referenced in this article is from two separate Leger surveys that polled more than 3,000 Canadians.
THE PUSH TO A DIGITAL LIFESTYLE
According to Leger, the pandemic has acted as a springboard for the digital era.
Since the start of the pandemic, 55 per cent of Canadians who participated in the survey did at least one online purchase for the first time or began purchasing online more often.
Bourque said 18 per cent of Canadians began purchasing online for the first time in their lives during the pandemic.
"I think for brick and mortar, to some extent, those who were suffering coming into the crisis will suffer even more coming out of it," he said.
"The champions of retail will remain the champions of retail."
Bourque said this trend will force smaller independent local stores to increase their online presence.
The move to online has gone beyond purchasing as well. There has also been an emerging e-learning trend.
Bourque said 25 per cent of Canadians have done some sort of learning course or tutorial online.
"For a lot of Canadians, e-learning is becoming part of their lifestyle," he said.
WORKING FROM HOME IS HERE TO STAY
In an effort to follow physical distancing measures outlined by public health officials many businesses opted to have employees work from home.
But according to Leger's survey, the return to the office may not be so easy.
"Employers will need to react, employees will need to adapt because working from home is here to stay," said Bourque.
He said close to 50 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they are working from home now because of the crisis, and close to 80 per cent said they were satisfied working from home.
Bourque said this shift to the home-office will have far-reaching effects on Canada's economy. He said he believes within a year or two many office buildings will be down-sizing to accommodate the shift to homes. Even apparel stores will have to make decisions on how much business clothing they carry, as less people are required to dress up to go to work.
"All of the impacts of more people working from home – in a massive way are still hard to comprehend," Bourque said.
SPEND LESS AND SAVE MORE…JUST IN CASE
Leger said as life begins to return to normal, the amount of spending on 'non-essential' items may decline. Bourque said this will come with a growing attitude among Canadians of – as he puts it – 'cool to be cheap.'
According to Leger, 32 per cent of Canadians' surveyed will reduce their spending on what they consider non-essential products and services.
And with the change in spending habits, Bourque said will come a change in saving strategy.
"We all know the expression saving for a rainy day – well it's been pouring for six weeks," said Bourque.
"For the first time a lot of Canadians have needed to take a very hard look at their short-term savings and also at their long-term savings, and figure out what is their saving strategy."
Bourque said the more Canadians save, the less they will spend on non-essential products.
GOING BACK TO FOOD BASICS
The pandemic has changed the way people grocery shop, moving away from pre-packaged food.
"People are going back to staple products," he said. "There probably will be some move towards making it yourself, that we were not seeing before the crisis itself," Bourque said.
Bourque said this will have some impact on what is stocked in grocery store shelves, as well as Canadians’ lifestyles at home.
It's not just what Canadians are buying that could change – it's how much they are buying as well. During the first months of the pandemic, items like toilet paper and other kinds of essential items were cleared from grocery stores shelves as some Canadians stockpiled.
Bourque said nearly a quarter of Canadians who participated in the survey said they adopted pantry loading, which means buying large quantities of groceries.
"This is becoming now, sort of the mode of grocery shopping," Bourque said.
"For a lot of Canadians out there – if this is the way they want to shop, we will see a change in the grocers and the general merchandiser's strategies coming out of this crisis that may affect exactly what we find on the stores of our supermarkets."
THE RISE OF THE 'STAYCATION'
The pandemic has brought travel to a standstill, with restrictions in place on international and domestic travel.
Leger said more than 50 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they have either had to cancel or change their vacation plans in 2020.
"This is where the staycation will probably become the norm for 2020," said Bourque.
The term staycation was coined during the economic recession in 2008-09, Bourque said, when people could not afford to vacation or take a trip abroad.
He said this will pose a challenge for the airline industry which has already been struggling amid the pandemic, but it also presents an opportunity for tourism within Canada.
"For our local tourist industry – they will need to focus hard to Canadians that staying in Canada is the greatest thing you can do right now," he said.
Information on Canadians' consumer behaviour was from a sample of 2,000 Canadians 15-years-old and over. This survey had a margin of error of 2.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
The information on satisfaction with government, as well as other public opinion questions was the result of a weekly survey of 1,500 Canadians, 18-years-old and over. This survey had a margin of error of 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.