Exporting to Canada
Economic Outlook: According to the Conference Board of Canada

  • By 2030, most of Canada’s ‘baby boomers’ (those born in the late 1940s through the 1950s) will have exited the labour market.
  • Aging baby boomers will demand more services and health care, putting pressure on provincial budgets.
  • A consistent slowing in labour force growth means that Canada’s economic growth will ease steadily over the forecast period.
  • Strong immigration will not reverse Canada’s aging trend, but it will help keep total population growth relatively stable at around 1% per year.
  • A rebound in growth in emerging markets, such as China, Brazil, India, and Russia, will keep commodity prices elevated over the long term. While opportunities in developing countries abound, the United States will remain Canada’s most important export market.
  • Stable inflation and strong commodity prices will keep the Canadian dollar strong, above US$0.92, throughout the forecast horizon.


Reflecting changes in personal spending patterns, retail trade has continued to move away from general purpose and department stores towards warehouse-type, minimal-service retailers offering discounted prices on a wide range of goods. Specialty stores with narrow product lines such as fitness products are also playing a more prominent role in the retail sector. Some of the major trends affecting consumer spending are outlined below.

Age: Canada’s population is ageing rapidly and becoming more urban, mainly as a result of the nation’s low fertility rate and increasing life expectancy.

This will have a dramatic impact on the demand for goods and services as older Canadians represent an attractive, fast-growing and highly specialized market. There is greater demand and thus business opportunities in fields as diverse as travel, housekeeping, home renovations, delivery services, health care products, health services and upscale toys and baby items for grandchildren.
This trend will continue in the coming decade, as more ‘baby boomers’ reach retirement age. On average, the income of older Canadians is still lower than that of younger age groups, but this has improved in recent decades largely as the result of improved public and private pension plans. The incomes of many older Canadians have also been bolstered by investment returns as well as by widespread home ownership. It is estimated that more than 75% of Canadian households headed by an individual over 65 years of age own their home, and of this group less than 10% have an outstanding mortgage. To reinforce this, Statistics Canada reports that the net worth of individuals aged 65 years and older was the second highest in the country at $303,167 in 2005 (the latest statistics available as of this report date); their debt to asset ratio was also the lowest, at 0.02. The group with the highest net worth ($407,417 in 2005) was aged 55-64 years; their debt to asset ratio was the second lowest, at 0.07.

Multiculturalism: Canada is a land of tremendous ethnic diversity brought about by successive waves of immigration from various parts of the world. Immigration has become even more important in recent decades as the country’s birth rate has gradually fallen below replacement levels.The latest report from Statistics Canada14 shows that:

·         By 2031, between 25% and 28% of the population could be foreign-born, the highest historical ratio to date. About 55% of this population would be born in Asia.  Regardless of future immigration, diversity will grow among the Canadian-born population. By 2031, 47% of second-generation Canadians would belong to a visible minority group, nearly double the proportion of 24% in 2006. Second generation refers to those who are Canadian-born and have at least one parent born outside Canada.
The nature of households in Canada presents several opportunities for suppliers to this market. In 2006 (the latest statistics available), there were about 6.1 million married-couple families, an increase of 3.5% from 2001. In contrast, the number of common-law-couple families surged 18.9% and the number of loneparent families increased 7.8% to 1.4 million for each group15. Among lone-parent families, growth was most rapid for families headed by men. Their number increased 14.6%, more than twice the rate of growth of 6.3% among those headed by women. For the first time, the census counted same-sex married couples, reflecting the legalization of same-sex marriages as of July 2005. Same-sex couples represent 0.6% of all couples in Canada, comparable to data from New Zealand and Australia. The census enumerated 45,345 same-sex couples, of which 7,465, or 16.5%, were married couples. Half of these couples lived in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver. Over half of same-sex married spouses were men compared with 46.3% who were women; about 9% had children aged 24 years or less living in the home.
Single person households account for about 26.8% of all Canadian households. This high percentage is a result of several factors, including a declining marriage rate, a rising incidence of divorce, higher median ages at marriage for both women and men, and an increasing number of elderly women who are both living longer and outliving their male spouses. Labour- and time-saving products such as convenience foods and appliances are therefore in demand. Services such as cleaning, home maintenance and child care previously provided within the household are thus now frequently provided by specialty suppliers.
The large number of Canadian households has supported significant spending on a range of durables from cars and houses to furniture, appliances, electronic products, and decorating supplies. There is also a significant market for a range of leisure products and services as Canadians continue to travel incountry and abroad. The number of Canadian trips abroad amounted to 4.2 million in January 2010, up from 3.8 million in January 2009.16 The majority (84%) was to the U.S.; a decline was noted in travel to other countries in that same comparison period. Tourism spending in Canada increased 0.4% in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2009, as outlays by both international visitors to Canada and Canadians were up. This was the second consecutive increase in tourism spending, following four negative quarters that started in the summer of 2008. Spending by international visitors on accommodation and food and beverage services increased during the quarter. Spending on recreation and entertainment was unchanged.

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