Canadian shoppers hit the stores for Black Friday deals
Published Friday, November 23, 2012 9:18AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 23, 2012 11:11PM EST
We might not have an official Black Friday in Canada, but with a soaring loonie and hot sales luring shoppers over the border, many Canadian retailers are pulling out all the stops this Friday to keep shoppers’ dollars here at home.
A number of malls opened their doors extra early Friday to get holiday deal-seekers into their stores. The West Edmonton Mall opened up at 8 a.m., two hours earlier than usual, while Toronto’s Eaton Centre threw open its doors prior at 6 a.m. -- the earliest it’s ever opened.
Staff at some stores in the Toronto mall had to open even earlier than that because, even before the sun had risen, shoppers were already lining up outside stores.
Kimberley Clancy, of the shopping website Frugal Shopper Canada, says for Canadian retailers, it doesn’t get any bigger than this weekend.
“Every Canadian retailer wants Canadians to get out shopping this weekend so they’ve created sales across the board,” she told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.
While pre-holiday sales are not new in Canada, this year, many retailers are appropriating the U.S. term and labelling their sales “Black Friday events.”
Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, has a number of Black Friday promotions at its stores in Canada. The Bay department stores began promoting its Black Friday events a week and half ago. Even online retailers are offering Black Friday deals that are right on par with what you’d find in the brick-and-mortar stores.
But Clancy says Canadian shoppers don’t need to worry about finding themselves caught up in all-out brawling Black Friday mayhem like we see coming out of the U.S.
“Here in Canada, we tend to be a bit more civilized. Most of the doors have a week-long -- or at least weekend-long -- sale, with a lot of their merchandise on sale. It’s not just the doorcrashers that create the chaos in the U.S.,” she says.
In fact, the attempt to Canadian-ize the American tradition was dubbed by some as “Flat Friday.”
“I thought there would be a lineup like on Boxing Day, but I forgot this is Canada,” said one shopper.
That’s not to say the deals weren’t good. One woman in Quebec was bitten by another woman over an X-box.
Canadian retailers are pulling out all the enticing sales tactics that they usually reserve for Boxing Day sales because they are fully aware that their biggest competition this year is not each other, but the U.S.
A dollar that’s near par with the U.S. currency, higher duty-free limits, and more-diverse shopping choices are conspiring together to tempt Canadian shoppers to take their dollars elsewhere.
Six per cent of Canadians told a Harris-Decima survey in mid-October that they were planning a trip to the U.S. for Black Friday deals, says the Retail Council of Canada. And a survey released last week by Visa Canada found that about 44 per cent of Canadians were planning to take advantage of discounts offered online by American retailers on Black Friday weekend.
Since Canadians can now spend $200 in the U.S. without paying duty if their stay is longer than 24 hours, many are turning shopping trips into mini-shopping vacations, booking hotels in border towns and bringing the family along.
Some economists predict that Canadian retailers will lose a significant amount of sales to U.S. retailers this year, with BMO deputy chief economist Douglas Porter telling Bloomberg that he expects the sales drain to total about $5 billion.
In the U.S., many shoppers were plotting out their shopping strategies early, lacing up their finest walking shoes, ready to hit the mall pavement to score the greatest deals.
Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, tends to be the busiest shopping day of the year in the U.S. and has long been considered the official start of the American Christmas shopping season. For years, it was also the day when retailers were finally able to turn a profit for the year, moving out of the red and into the black.
This year, the Black Friday shopping started even earlier than usual. Stores such as Target and Toys "R" Us opened as early as 8 p.m. Thursday evening to convince shoppers to push aside their Thanksgiving pumpkin pie and head out to the malls early.
The numbers are still not in on how many shoppers were drawn to the earlier openings versus the traditional Black Friday hours. But according to an International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs survey of 1,000 consumers conducted this month, about 17 per cent of U.S. shoppers planned to shop on Thanksgiving while 33 per cent were planning to hit the stores Friday.