Shelves are stocked with festive products and Christmas decor is on display at many Vernon, B.C. businesses.

Okanagan retailers say inflation is making holiday shoppers more cautious

However, with Canadians facing rising prices for many day-to-day staples, the open question is how much will shoppers be willing to spend on the holidays this year?

“People are being a lot more cautious with their spending dollars,” said Stephlynne Wilbrink who owns Wildflower General Store, a gift shop in downtown Vernon.

“They are definitely looking around more making sure they are really certain with what they are going to buy instead of just impulse buying.”

At Polished Mercantile, another boutique across the street, the owner says business is noticeably slower than last year.

“You can’t blame people. Everything is just so expensive everywhere,” said Polished Mercantile owner Lacey O’Neill.

“It is kind of scary as an owner of a retail place.”

However, traffic is not slow everywhere. Lynella Henke said her toy store, Vernon Teach and Learn, was busy for Black Friday with people looking for deals.

“I think people are careful in how they are shopping but they are also looking for quality products and originality and things that are on the top toy list,” Henke said.

A holiday shopping survey done for the Retail Council of Canada found around 60 per cent of Canadians said they will look for more deals this year than they have in the past.

“What consumers told Leger, when they did the study for us, is that they are going to be focused more on prices and looking for a good bargain and that they are willing to hunt or shop around for a good bargain,” said Greg Wilson,  the Retail Council of Canada’s director of government relations for B.C.

However, B.C. shoppers’ holiday budgets aren’t as tight as in some other parts of Canada.

The Retail Council of Canada survey found British Columbian shoppers are planning to spend $887 this year. That’s almost $100 dollars more than the national average.

Wilson said the bigger budgets in B.C. are probably because the economy in the province is stronger.

Two other national trends could also impact local retailers this holiday season.

“This year, a little bit more than other years, there is a lot of concern about local businesses. Seventy-four per cent of survey respondents say that it is important to patronize local businesses,” Wilson said.

“The other thing is it is interesting that this year there is a very marked change towards an intention to buy food and beverage which indicates that more people are planning more holiday parties and more events. So they are planning to spend a greater proportion of their budget on food and beverage.”

Meanwhile, retail owners say they are working to adapt.

“It means we just have to curate our collection a lot more carefully and make sure we are delivering the best product we can at the best prices we can,” Wilbrink said.

“Definitely try to spend your dollars local as much as you can, it makes a big difference. We reinvest into our communities. You are giving the money to your neighbours instead of bigger corporations.”

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