Black Friday spending surprised to the upside despite a softening macro backdrop

December 11, 2023 | Carrie Freestone


Black Friday spending surprised to the upside despite a softening macro backdrop

  • Retail sales ticked up in November in the midst of the holiday shopping period. Even after adjusting for inflation, real retail sales (excluding autos) were tracking an increase relative to October. Clothing stores and gasoline were responsible for the bulk of the increase.
  • Canadians were out looking for deals on Black Friday- our own RBC cardholder data suggests holiday spending was up 7.5% (from the eve of Black Friday through Cyber Monday) from year-ago levels.
  • In recent years, shoppers have devoted less of their Black Friday spending to electronics. Prior to the pandemic, nearly 13% of Black Friday weekend purchases were electronic goods. Today, electronics make up just 8.5%.
  • Canadians spent less on jewelry this year- swapping luxury gifts for necessities like clothing amidst higher household debt servicing costs.
  • Ahead of the holidays, restaurant spending ticked higher. But overall, real accommodation and food services spending is looking flat so far (on an annualized basis) in Q4.
  • And stronger travel spending in November signaled an uptick in travel bookings ahead of the holidays.
  • Q3 retail sales excluding autos came in softer than the prior quarter, down ~1.8% (annualized) after adjusting for inflation. So far, Q4 is looking slightly stronger.

RBC Inflation Watch: a tracker of key indicators on price trends in Canada.

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