Don’t expect huge Black Friday sales in Canada. Here’s why

More Canadians will be sticking to stores on this side of the border this holiday season. But many don't expect local shops to offer deals comparable to what they've found on cross-border shopping trips. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Despite industry hopes — and hype — about Black Friday arriving in Canada in force this year, high expectations about how much shopping will actually occur on Friday could disappoint if recent history is any guide.

Canadian poll numbers based on the final tally of purchases made on the U.S.-style sales event from 2013 indicate far fewer shoppers actually bought something versus the number who said they intended to.

Only 27 per cent of surveyed Canadians made a purchase during Black Friday 2013, in contrast to nearly half saying they planned to.

The real numbers were “substantially lower than many pre-event forecasts suggested,” said DIG360 Consulting, a Vancouver-based retail marketing firm who ran the 2013 survey.

Pre-event poll results published this year suggest a bigger number of shoppers have intentions to spend. More than 60 per cent of those polled by Accenture said they’re preparing to take advantage of the flurry of sales.

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Ads versus sales

Experts suggest that despite plenty of marketing among Canadian store- and chain-owners ahead of Nov. 28 associating themselves with Black Friday, consumers have yet to see comparable, U.S.-style deep discounting here. That could be a reason why interest among shoppers hasn’t more fully translated into sales.

“There’s still a big gap to fill,” said Loraine Cordery, retail and marketing expert at IPG Mediabrands. “Retailers haven’t quite jumped on the [discounting] bandwagon yet.”

“There’s a bit of reluctance to invest in it without fully understanding what they’re going to get back,” Cordery said.

More sales

Still, more Canadian retailers are introducing Black Friday events featuring lower prices this year, industry experts say, providing a reason to believe more will be out actually making purchases.

MORE: Canadians wish for bigger Black Friday deals this holiday season

“There’s definitely been a movement of the sale period forward from Boxing Day toward Black Friday,” Peter Simons, the head of La Maison Simons, the Quebec-based department chain, said.

“You can try to resist it but when everyone breaks price … you have to follow,” Simons said.

Tighter budgets

Bigger sales might be required to convince consumers to open their wallets.

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Despite improving economic and employment outlooks, consumer confidence has taken a dip in recent weeks as oil’s plunge and headlines over cratering stock markets curb enthusiasm to spend freely. Many households are still contending with towering debt levels as well.

Royal Bank of Canada said Thursday it expects holiday spending to decline several percentage points per shopper, to $589.60. That’s down from $608.60 last year and $630 in 2012.

“It might mean lower volume,” Simons said.

WATCH: A new report suggests some stores inflate their prices before marking them down and calling them Black Friday sales. Mia Sosiak reports.

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