The landscape of retail shopping ahead of the holiday season

A photo of the sign outside White Oaks Mall. CREDIT: JUSTIN KOEHLER
White Oaks Mall is getting prepared for the holiday season including their board game store, Mind Games.

The economy and inflation will be two of the biggest words heard ahead of this holiday season.

Many across the city are looking to pinch those pennies as they get ready for the busiest portion of the year when it comes to shopping and spending.

Store workers and retail employees directly see just how the shopping space has changed over the past few years, coming out of a pandemic and now heading into an economic spiral.

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With interest rates, grocery prices, gas, housing, and more all on the rise, many across London may be thinking twice about where they’re putting their dollars to use.

“I felt that it’s definitely come back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Mind Games store manager Alex Drouin. “I’d say shopping has been much more dictated by the economy as of late with prices in general going up across the board. We’re seeing a bit of a slowdown in retail that, I would say, is non-necessary or non-important goods.”

Drouin said that spending isn’t the only thing that has primarily changed over the past couple years and that, surprisingly, store employees have been seeing some positive changes in the landscape of retail sales.

“Oddly enough, one of the biggest things that have come out is you see there is an overall difference in positivity. It’s strange, but I find it’s made more people conscious about how they treat people in a retail space and how they act with each other out in public. We’re also seeing a lot more conscientious shoppers, which is surprising to see.”

Even with the economy in Canada seeing some harder times, Drouin talked about how the space was already undergoing a drastic change prior.

“You’re seeing a bit of a decline in physical retail sales. The online shopping space has been growing exponentially in the last five to 10 years, it’s really changed the way things work. Of course, trends are always changing.”

Drouin also noted a few observations he’s made alongside the increase in online shopping and declining retail spending.

“Malls are all getting a little smaller and emptier, but a lot of strip malls and outdoor shopping seem to be picking up, which is really different from about 20 years ago.”

Looking ahead to the holiday season, Drouin said that he’s still expecting a successful season for his store, with the holidays remaining to be unchanged by global and national trends.

“We’re anticipating probably the same amount of volume, if not a little bit better than last year,” Drouin said.

“We saw that the typical Christmas shopping cycle that seems to pick up mid to early October may not boom into full spring, at least in shopping malls in London, until more around November last year. We’re hoping it’ll come a bit sooner, people already seem to be out there and spending ahead of the season, so we’re hoping it’s going to be good.”

He said that, no matter what, the holiday season will always remain vital and necessary for both shoppers and retail stores.

“Fourth quarter of the year is still where it’s at for retail sales. Lots of businesses live and die by having an excellent holiday season, that’s not going to change anytime soon.”

While the economy has been worsening, people have less money to spend, and retail sales are overall still working to recover, holiday shopping isn’t going anywhere.

Londoners can still expect to have plenty of gift options for their family and friends in stores, malls, and online this holiday season.