Canadian consumers are in structurally better financial shape than U.S. consumers. So then, why do Canadians plan more dramatic spending cuts and shifts in behavior this year in response to the recession than do U.S. consumers?   "Compared with U.S. consumers, Canadian consumers are entering the downturn with more secure household finances, healthier real-estate fundamentals, and more conservative levels of credit and debt,” says Cliff Grevler, a partner at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), which has recently completed research and a new survey. “Despite this structural superiority, Canadians are battening down the hatches and bracing for a tough year ahead. Canadian consumers are planning cutbacks in 2009 to a greater degree than their U.S. counterparts. We anticipate that the result will be a 'cycle of thrift' in Canada, and it will have self-fulfilling effects."   The BCG research--the first to compare Canadian, U.S., and European consumers in the current downturn--shows that Canadian consumers have entered the recession in a better structural position than U.S. consumers. It is reported that they have higher savings rates: three percent last year compared with about 1.5 percent among U.S. consumers. Moreover, Canadians have lower debt-to-income ratios and bigger equity stakes in their homes.   Of course, the residential real-estate market is healthier in Canada than in the United States. In fact, Canada has a lower mortgage-delinquency rate, sub-prime loans aren't nearly as common, and there is less securitization of mortgages, thereby leading to more rigorous lending standards.   Canadians are also more conservative with credit cards, notes the survey. Average credit-card debt per household in Canada is $3,100 compared with $8,200 in the United States. More than 70 percent of Canadian households pay off credit card debt each month, but less than half of U.S. households do. Canadians average two credit cards per household, while U.S. consumers average six. And the credit card delinquency rate in Canada is half of what it is in the United States.   Despite their superior financial position, Canadians express great economic concern and voice intentions to shift their behavior more dramatically than U.S. consumers say they will, according to BCG.   A greater numbers of Canadians--62 percent--plan to reduce spending over the next year, compared with 58 percent of U.S. consumers and 56 percent of European consumers in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, and France. Although the Canadians who plan to cut spending anticipate doing so by 15 percent, the comparable U.S. and European consumers plan to do so by only 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.   "Canadians are more intent on stretching their dollars in 2009 than are their U.S. counterparts," says Grevler. Nearly three-quarters--72 percent--of Canadians said that they will pay more attention to and buy more products that are on promotion. Only 65 percent of U.S. consumers expressed that intention.   Incidentally, some 69 percent of Canadians said that they will defer major expenses that can wait, while only 63 percent of U.S. consumers expressed that intention. Furthermore, 58 percent of Canadians said that they will significantly cut spending on nonessential items, compared with only 50 percent of U.S. consumers.   The categories that both Canadian and U.S. residents are most likely to focus on for cuts are restaurants and fast food (49 percent), vacation travel (40 percent), consumer electronics (28 percent), home furnishings and décor (27 percent), and cars (20 percent).   The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. For more information, please visit

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