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Stress? What stress? Shopping smart will avoid headaches this holiday season

Nationwide survey shows battling crowds and finding the right gift rank as the top holiday shopping stressors

Toronto, November 25, 2004 – With the holiday shopping season in full swing, a new national survey finds six in 10 (60%) adult Canadians do not like holiday shopping. Mall and shopping centre crowds (39%), as well as the challenge of ‘finding the right gift or not knowing what to buy’ (32%) are two of the main reasons why. To help Canadians reduce their stress and make the most of their holiday shopping trips, MasterCard Canada has launched its “We’re at your service” program. At participating malls across Canada between November 27 and December 24, Canadians can enjoy free gift wrapping and coat check services. They’ll also have access to MasterCard Holiday Helpers and MasterCard Mall Porters who will help carry parcels, brush the snow off cars or simply open the door. Visit www.mastercard.ca for a complete list of participating mall locations.

As part of the "We’re at your service program", MasterCard Canada and Shoestring Shopper Cathie Mostowyk have developed a number of tips designed to help Canadians maximize their budgets and minimize their stress as they tackle their holiday shopping.

The MasterCard Canada survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid found men especially dislike holiday shopping (66% vs. 55% of women) and are far more likely than women to start their holiday shopping in December (61% vs. 33%).

"Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a painful experience - it can be both fun and exciting if planned properly," said Shoestring Shopper Cathie Mostowyk. "Simple things like making a list in advance, not wearing a big heavy coat and choosing the right time of day to venture out can all have a big impact on your holiday shopping stress level."

Tip #1: "Where do I like to shop?" According to the MasterCard survey, six in 10 Canadian gift givers (59%) typically do most of their holiday shopping at the mall or shopping centres; two in 10 (19%) prefer big box stores, followed by small shops and boutiques (13%).

Mostowyk says malls, boutiques and big box stores all have great gifts – it just depends on what you want. Malls offer shoppers a chance to do most of their shopping in one place, whereas boutiques have great "one of a kind" gifts. Big box stores carry a variety of merchandise, including books, clothing, toys and home accessories and can also act as a "one stop" shop.

Tip #2: Make the trip as simple as possible. According to the MasterCard survey, 39% of Canadians find dealing with the crowds in malls or shopping centres stressful. Mostowyk recommends leaving the kids at home – shopping while trying to watch the kids in a busy mall is very difficult to do. And when you get to the mall, try and find a parking spot close to the entrance, but don’t obsess over it if you can’t find one. Also, be sure to check your coat when you get to the mall so you’re not stuck wearing or carrying it.

Tip #3: Take advantage of services offered by the mall. According to the survey Canadians find holiday shopping physically taxing. Half of all shoppers say "dealing with crowds" (48%) is the most difficult element, two in 10 (20%) say "all of the walking around", followed by "the heat from being in a crowded mall or shopping centre" (17%), and "carrying too many heavy parcels" (6%).

Mostowyk recommends taking advantage of services malls offer during the holiday season including coat check, gift wrapping and porter services to help carry parcels to your car. MasterCard Canada will be offering these services at participating malls between November 27 and December 24. Check www.mastercard.ca to see if there’s a mall in your area. Also, don’t forget to use the information kiosks and mall directories. This will help you plan your route and ensure you don’t miss your favourite stores.

Tip #4: The perfect gift may not be a gift: Think gift cards and experiences. According to the MasterCard survey finding the right gift or not knowing what to buy is among the most stressful aspects of holiday shopping for Canadians of all ages. Further, holiday gift givers over the age of 55 years are significantly more likely than those aged 18-54 to say that "finding the right gift or not knowing what to buy" is the most stressful thing about holiday shopping (40% vs. 29%).

Mostowyk says that engaging in a fun activity or learning a new skill is becoming more and more popular these days. Gifts such as cooking classes, hiking trips or a visit to the spa can be a great choice for many. If you’re really unsure about what to buy, let the recipient decide – a gift card removes the uncertainty of whether or not someone will like your gift. Another option is to make a donation to the person’s charity of choice.

Tip #5: Save your receipts and keep them in one place. A good idea is to have a holiday receipt envelope. Write the person’s name on the back of each receipt so you can keep track of what you bought for each person. If possible, get a second gift receipt and actually include it with the gift – this will make the return/exchange process much easier – especially if the person lives out of town. Most importantly, when you make a purchase, check the store’s return/exchange policy.

Tip #6: Call ahead. If one of the gifts on your shopping list is this season’s must-have item, call ahead to see if the item is in stock – if it is, ask the store to put one aside. If not, check to see when the next shipment will arrive and then get to the store early. You can also enlist the help of family and friends who live outside your area – hot items are often available in other locations.

About Cathie Mostowyk

Cathie Mostowyk is the founder, president and senior writer of the acclaimed Shoestring Shopping Guide, one of Canada's best-selling resources for consumers. For over 15 years, she has been a respected shopping expert, columnist, public speaker and popular guest on various Toronto television and radio programs.

About the MasterCard Canada"We're at your service" program

Use your MasterCard card at participating malls between November 27 and December 24 to make your holiday shopping experience more rewarding than ever. Together with local malls, MasterCard is supporting charities across the country to help make everyone's holiday a little happier. MasterCard Canada will be offering Canadian consumers free gift wrapping service, free coat check, MasterCard Holiday Helpers and MasterCard Mall Porters – to help carry your parcels, brush the snow off your car or simply open the door. For full details visit www.mastercard.ca.

About the MasterCard Canada survey

These are the findings of an Ipsos-Reid poll on behalf of MasterCard Canada conducted from October 28 to November 1 and from November 5-7, 2004. The telephone survey is based on a randomly selected sample of 1,000 adult Canadians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ±3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Please visit www.ipsos.ca for more information.

About the Youth Culture survey

1,010 Canadian youth between the ages of 12 and 24 were surveyed in October 2004 for MasterCard Canada. Conducted by Youth Culture Research, the online survey measured young people's attitudes and opinions towards holiday shopping. The survey is accurate to within ±4.06 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About MasterCard International
MasterCard International is a leading global payments solutions company that provides a broad variety of innovative services in support of our global members’ credit, deposit access, electronic cash, business-to-business and related payment programs. MasterCard International manages a family of well-known, widely accepted payment cards brands including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus® and serves financial institutions, consumers and businesses in over 210 countries and territories. The MasterCard award-winning Priceless® advertising campaign is now seen in 96 countries and in 47 languages, giving the MasterCard brand a truly global reach and scope. For more information go to www.mastercardinternational.com

Media Contact:
Matt Cram, Environics Communications
416-969-2726
mcram@environicspr.com