November 13, 2014 3:53 pm

Is Black Friday worth the mayhem?

Black Friday bargain hunters shop for discounted merchandise at Toys R' Us, which opened at 9PM Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011, in New York City.

Michael Nagle/Getty Images

TORONTO – Canadians hoping to save money this holiday shopping season may bank on Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals. But are these days really the best time to shop?

Increasingly, getting a bang for your buck is top on the minds of Canadians when they hit the stores.

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An October study found that 96 per cent of Canadians surveyed said discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions this holiday, and one in four said that it would take a discount of 50 per cent or more to persuade them to make a purchase.

Marking the start of the holiday shopping season, Black Friday (on Nov. 28 this year) is one of retailers’ busiest days of the year. In the last few years, the day has been characterized by long lines, surging crowds at big box stores and even fist fights.

A report from Accenture found that 61 per cent of Canadian respondents said they are planning to shop on Black Friday this year, and another 24 per cent said they are somewhat likely to do so.

“Canadian retailers are changing their discount strategy and making sure their prices are competitive, especially during Black Friday or Cyber Monday,” said Robin Sahota, managing director of retail at consulting company Accenture in Canada.

Are the deals really deals?

A new report on Black Friday in the U.S. said the hype may be just that – hype.

According to a Adobe Systems Inc. report, Black Friday may not be the best day to find the greatest deals and that the biggest price cuts that came last year occurred on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

“Is it the best deal to wait and shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday? Perhaps not always,” said John Pliniussen, a professor of Internet marketing and innovation at Queen’s School of Business.

“But does it really matter? No, not really.”

READ MORE: Would pricing items in terms of hours worked change how you shop?

Savings are savings

Pliniussen said savings are savings and a good deal is relative to people’s individual income level.

“If you are on a lower income and you can save $5 on 20 purchases, then that’s a great deal,” he said.

He advises contacting stores in advance and asking when the store will have the best promotions in the year.

“Most markups and discounts are known ahead of time,” he said. “Call ahead and ask if the deals will beat other sales in the year.”

Sahota said most shoppers aren’t so concerned about whether Black Friday or Cyber Monday will provide them with the most savings and that the definition of a “good deal” is very personal and unique.

“What’s good to me may not be a good deal to you,” said Sahota. “When people shop this time of the year, they are simply looking at deals that aren’t often on sale.”

Sahota said the greatest savings of the year will still be around this holiday season, even if stores from time to time might have significant saving promotions throughout the year.

“Black Friday is an important day for retailers if they wish to make their sales numbers,” he said. “It’s really the start of the holiday season and stores need to take advantage of that.”

Online shopping still the latest trend?

Sahota said that according to a recent survey, 34 per cent of Canadians will do half of their holiday shopping online and 77 per cent plan to browse online first before going to the store to make their purchase.

“We are increasingly seeing that the most competitive retailers are seamless in the discounts they offer online and in stores,” said Sahota. “In the future, as shelf space in stores decreases, we can potentially expect to see more aggressive deals online than in stores.”

Pliniussen advises shoppers go online and find out what they want to purchase before heading out to the stores.

“Determine what you are looking for, where is it available and how much time do you have to look for it,” he said.

‘It’s part of the excitement’

Regardless of the deal, are the long lineups at the checkout, the crowded stores and the task of finding a free parking space—now equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack—really all worth the chaos when visiting stores?

“Absolutely,” said Sahota. “For some people, it’s the excitement of the experience more than the deal.”

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