Consumer Trends Report – Chapter 3: Consumer Demographics: Summary

Chapter 3 – Consumer Demographics: Summary

3.1 The Changing Age Structure of Canada's Consumers

The aging of the baby boom generation is the most influential factor shaping Canada's demographic profile. With a growing senior population, a number of families are facing issues associated with caring for older family members. In addition, seniors themselves are particularly attractive targets of questionable and sometimes outright fraudulent business activities. Youth cohorts – while relatively smaller in numbers – continue to have an important influence on, and interactions with, the marketplace.

Research opportunities include the need to better understand the issues and challenges of aging for consumers' dealings with the marketplace. For example, targeted product/service offerings, the provision of information in advertisements and contracts, and access to redress all merit further analysis from the perspective of older consumers. With respect to younger consumers, numerous avenues for research exist, such as whether their teenage experience with largely discretionary purchases will affect their decisions when they start to purchase essentials as adults.

3.2 Canada's Changing Households

Canada's households are no longer well typified by the “dad, stay-at-home mom and kids” scenario: today, families are smaller, and a majority of them include no children. Increasing numbers of Canadians are actually living alone, and for seniors in particular, this household arrangement can suffer from inadequate resources. As for those Canadian families that do have children, family formation is on average occurring later in life, at a time of greater financial stability, and family resources support a smaller number of children. A significant number of children, however, live in lone-parent homes. The latter's consumer challenges can be particularly difficult, shaped as they are by financial constraints (discussed in Chapter 5) and time pressures. The increasing number of two working-parent families face the same difficulties.

Research opportunities include the need to integrate household structure and time management issues when developing materials for self-learning or self-protection, or when analyzing policy options that alter the consumer's share in the allocation of marketplace risks and responsibilities. Special attention should be given to understanding how time constraints affect consumer decision making, especially in complex markets where the costs of a wrong decision are high.

3.3 The Changing Ethnic Composition of Canadian Consumers

Immigrants and visible minorities are ever more present in Canada's population. Cultural differences influence demand and hence contribute to a more diversified marketplace, to the benefit of all Canadian consumers. However, a number of these Canadians – and even second-generation immigrants in the case of visible minorities – report discrimination in the conduct of their consumer activities.

Research opportunities include analysis of, and responses to, discriminatory market practices suffered by visible minorities, whether related to earning or spending. There may also be a need to examine issues of particular relevance to Aboriginal consumers, both with respect to choice and redress in rural and remote areas as with potential discriminatory practices in urban areas. More generally, it will be important for the analysis of existing consumer protection measures to better account for differences in the needs, behaviours and expectations of Canada's various communities with regard to the marketplace.

3.4 Where We Live: The Geographic Distribution of Canadian Consumers

Canada's population is increasingly concentrated in and around urban centres – the majority of Canadians live in the country's 27 Census Metropolitan Areas. For the remaining – and on average older – population located in rural and small town Canada, accessing goods and services can be very different from the urban experience. Assessing average retail trends across Canada may not capture important urban-rural differences. A bank branch or department store closure, for example, takes on a particular meaning for Canadians in a smaller town.

Research opportunities include the need to consider how marketplace trends (such as changing retail formats and concentration, and the electronic delivery of goods and services) impact on consumers outside of urban centres. Government and consumer protection advocates should also pay special attention to Canada's geographic realities in the development of information and awareness materials.