Columnist image
Pattie Lovett-Reid

Chief Financial Commentator, CTV


Sign up for BNN Bloomberg's new weekly newsletter, Home Economics, here:

This is unprecedented for me: 49 days until Christmas and I've done nothing to prepare. I always have the gifts bought, wrapped and ready to go by Oct. 15. By Nov. 1, I have confirmed the family guest and planned the menu. 

That was then and this is now. A COVID-19 holiday season is going to be very different. 

How different it will be for our household, I am not entirely sure yet. However, there are trends emerging that might provide some clarity, especially when it comes to personal finances.

1. Large gatherings are likely not happening this year. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said the global pandemic "really sucks" and could jeopardize large gathering with friends and family over Christmas – similar to what we experienced at Thanksgiving. Frankly, I get it. There is no sugar coating it: the second wave of COVID-19 has hit, and we likely will have a tough winter ahead. This is going to result in families and friends getting creative on how and where they get together, and will likely lead to fewer holiday travel plans.

2. Retailers have already been advertising the holiday season and are taking a deep dive into digitally-inspired experiences in an effort to draw the consumer in. The pandemic has changed our buying behaviour, so having an online presence that is easy to maneuver with accessible checkout points will be key. Retailers without a strong online presence are scrambling to catch up. Just look at the performance of a stock like Shopify Inc. – a star performer on the TSX that provides online storefronts for small and medium-sized businesses.

3. Pandemic restrictions will continue to have a negative impact on the economy and, of course, there is a knock-on effect for individual finances. According to the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals, an uptick in insolvencies is inevitable with government support pulling back and lack of previous creditor flexibility. Some of those who have been able to spend in the past simply won't have the resources to do so this year. 

4. COVID-19 has forced some Canadians to be more budget-conscious as a so-called ‘K-shaped recovery’ emerges. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We are all acutely aware that small business survivals are going to be dependent on consumer spending decisions. If you can afford to spend, now is the time to do it and support local businesses.

5. The holiday season is about giving. In the true spirit of it, I suspect the desire to spend time with family and friends over buying more stuff will take on a new meaning this year. Giving ourselves to others, looking for meaningful ways to create memories, and finding entertainment and activities that promote social distancing will be front and centre.