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Retailers feeling the pressure as shoppers demand bargains

Tough holiday season looms in Canada as consumer confidence hits 26-year low

TORONTO -- Canadians plan to spend a lot less this Christmas shopping season, with the majority seeking deep discounts at the big retail chains, as consumer confidence slides to a 26-year low.

A survey released yesterday by marketing research firm Maritz Research Canada showed that shoppers plan to spend an average of $571 on gifts, down 14 per cent from the average of $663 last year.

About 70 per cent said they would pay cash -- including debit cards -- for the purchases.

"This year, the consumer mood is changing and as a result retailers are facing fiercer competition for a smaller pool of spending dollars," said Robert Daniel, managing director at Maritz.

Respondents also said they would shop at the large retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores, Canadian Tire Corp and Zellers.

Canadian retailers have been forced to cut prices on many key products as they look to fend off stiff price competition from U.S.-based retail giant Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart Canada said yesterday it was cutting prices on thousands of items -- including toys, electronics and small appliances -- ahead of what is expected to be a sluggish Christmas season.

The intense competition on prices comes as consumer confidence in Canada dropped in November to its lowest level since 1982 as global economic turmoil intensified, the Conference Board of Canada said yesterday.y

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