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Canadian shoppers are increasingly turning to gift cards for gift-giving occasions, citing choice as the most attractive feature of the cards, says a survey by Blackhawk Network. The survey indicates that gift cards are growing in popularity with 87 per cent of consumers saying they have both purchased and received gift cards in the last year, up from 68 per cent in 2010. More than half of those who purchased gift cards in the last year bought four or more cards (53 per cent). Ninety-one per cent have received a gift card in the last year and 76 per cent stated they would prefer to receive a gift card from one of their favourite stores rather than a specific gift. Attitudes about giving and receiving gift cards are positive: a majority of Canadians think most people enjoy receiving gift cards so they can pick what they want; prefer to give gift cards so the recipient can choose what he or she wants; and like to purchase gift cards because they are easier/more convenient to purchase than other gifts.

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Ninety-two per cent of consumers are a member of at least one loyalty program and consumers hold an average of 6.4 loyalty cards, says Maritz Canada Inc. Its annual loyalty program report also found consumers earning more than $125,000 hold an average of 12.3 cards and these affluent consumers are most likely to change shopping patterns to accommodate loyalty programs and most likely to think loyalty programs are valuable. The report says 63 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to continue doing business with a company that has a loyalty program and 78 per cent of consumers shop strategically to accumulate points. "Canadians have become so accustomed to loyalty benefits and rewards, many retail categories ‒ such as gas, grocery, home improvement, and pharmacies ‒ have gotten to a point where brands can't compete without a program," says Rob Daniel, vice-president, loyalty and research. "What sets the most popular programs apart is their ability to offer meaningful value by going beyond points and simple discounts."

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Ninety-two per cent of consumers are a member of at least one loyalty program and consumers hold an average of 6.4 loyalty cards, says Maritz Canada Inc. Its annual loyalty program report also found consumers earning more than $125,000 hold an average of 12.3 cards and these affluent consumers are most likely to change shopping patterns to accommodate loyalty programs and most likely to think loyalty programs are valuable. The report says 63 per cent of consumers say they are more likely to continue doing business with a company that has a loyalty program and 78 per cent of consumers shop strategically to accumulate points. "Canadians have become so accustomed to loyalty benefits and rewards, many retail categories ‒ such as gas, grocery, home improvement, and pharmacies ‒ have gotten to a point where brands can't compete without a program," says Rob Daniel, vice-president, loyalty and research. "What sets the most popular programs apart is their ability to offer meaningful value by going beyond points and simple discounts."

Disclaimer: Most of the information in today’s blog was provided by the researchers and staff at St
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Spring is a booming homebuying season, but it also has Canadians thinking about renovations. A survey of existing homeowners by TD shows 56 per cent have considered, or would consider, renovating their current home or buying a fixer-upper rather than buying a move-in-ready home. TD says many homeowners love their neighbourhood, but their home doesn’t have enough space or could use some upgrades. Given the cost and stress associated with moving, renovation is a popular choice among Canadians. The survey shows the top three reasons for choosing to renovate are to increase properly value (69 per cent); to upgrade the home’s look and feel (59 per cent); and to improve home efficiency (48 per cent). However, the biggest concern for renovating is the cost. TD recommends homeowners plan ahead and have a financial approach in place to help reduce the stress.

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Yesterday at Niagara Falls - a history

Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL), coming into force July 1, affects most businesses sending eMails, text messages, or messages through social media. But, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), only 15 per cent of small business owners are fully aware of CASL's requirements, and most (62 per cent) have taken no steps to comply. “Most small business owners don't think of themselves as spammers,” says Dan Kelly, CFIB president. “But under the new law, everyday interactions with customers and potential customers will be considered spam without a significant investment to document the right permissions.” Among other changes, the new law will require businesses to seek consent to send business eMails, keep a record of those consents, and to add an unsubscribe feature to every email message. CFIB offers tips on implementing CASL for small business at .

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As much as one-third of small business owners in Canada are unprepared for any kind of bad weather, says CIBC. In a survey, it found that 35 per cent of small business owners admitted they had no contingency plan in place to deal with severe weather conditions that could shut down their businesses. Even after the severe weather of the past year, less than a quarter (19 per cent) said they were rethinking what they’ll do if they are hit with weather like last summer’s floods in Alberta or this year’s ice storms in Ontario. CIBC suggests owners put aside money so they have enough cash flow to ensure their businesses are protected if they have to close for any reason.