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Shoppers and tourists walk in Quartier Petit Champlain in Old Quebec City, on December 22, 2010. A BMO holiday outlook suggests Canadians' spending spirits have improved this season, with the bank projecting an average 15-per-cent jump in holiday spending over last Christmas.Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press

Retailers are in for a welcome lift this holiday season if results of a new survey on Canadian consumers' spending intentions are borne out.

Holiday shoppers said they are prepared to spend an average of $674 on gift purchases, up almost $100 from $583 in last year's survey.

The findings are in Bank of Montreal's annual holiday spending outlook for 2012, which indicates that survey respondents plan on spending an average of $1,610 this year, up from $1,397 a year ago, including gifts, trips, entertaining and other expenses.

The poll was conducted by Pollara and the results were compiled from a random sample of 1,000 Canadians, 18 years of age and over, between Oct. 11 and Oct. 16. The firm says a probability sample of this size would yield results accurate to plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Among the findings:

  • Almost half (47 per cent) of those polled intend to set a loose or flexible holiday spending budget.
  • Three in 10 (29 per cent) are going with a fixed budget.
  • One in five (21 per cent) say they won’t have a budget.
  • The majority (68 per cent) say they plan to start their shopping before December, and three in 10 (30 per cent) before November.
  • Of the women polled, 41 per cent said they intend to start their shopping before November, compared with only 20 per cent of men.

Toy retailers, in particular, have been introducing new strategies in the hopes of boosting sales, BMO Nesbitt Burns toy analyst Gerrick Johnson said a news release.

"Consumers this year will benefit from a number of new tactics that retailers have implemented: hot toy reservation systems, more aggressive price match programs, same-day online delivery, and earlier and cheaper layaway," he said.

"These moves should help toy sales by making more expensive items more accessible, making all items easier to buy. They are also likely to entice earlier sales, which should help lift toy sales throughout the holiday season."

According to the survey results, most of the holiday spending is expected to be for gifts. The second highest item is travel at $563, up quite a bit from $360 last year.

The main reasons cited for spending more on gifts are a greater number of people on one's gift-list (41 per cent) and an improved financial situation (39 per cent).

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