Black Friday, a U.S. holiday shopping bonanza, is a relatively new phenomenon in Canada. According to recent IPG Mediabrands survey, 1.2 million Canadians plan to take a “sick” day to shop this Friday.
Five years ago when the Canadian dollar was at par with the U.S., retailers decided to give the American shopping tradition a chance. But with the loonie now hovering around 75 cents American, will retailers in Canada offer the same great deals Canadians have come to expect? You might think retailers on this side of the border would lose their incentive to offer customers great deals, but Global News has found it might be one of the biggest Black Fridays yet.
“I think definitely with the dollar working in different ways for Canadians we know that there’s going to be a lot more activity happening at the Best Buy stores and we’re ready for it,” said Best Buy spokesperson Elliott Chun. “So we’ve stepped up our game in terms of the offers that are in our flyers, that are online, that are in store. There’s deals everywhere to be had.”
Retail marketing strategist Andrew Sharpe says when Black Friday first launched in Canada it was a “sale in name only” with deals not comparable to the U.S. After that, domestic merchants felt the pressure to step up the deep discounting, he says, to prevent a mass exodus of Canadians. He predicts this year’s sales will be no different.
“I don’t think they’re willing to upset consumers anymore. So they will have strong sales,” according to Sharpe.
A recent UPS Canada survey, conducted by Leger, shows the number of Canadians who are likely to buy goods in the U.S. this upcoming weekend, either online or by cross-border shopping, has dropped by 22 per cent since last year.
“Ironically what I’ve been seeing is in the States they have tried to collectively reduce the deals, not make them so rock bottom, by replacing it with free shipping or extra value added just so they’re not shooting themselves in the foot,” said Sharpe. “But I think in Canada we’re still in the uptake of trying to have great deals because that’s what we’ve come to expect.”
New Black Friday Incentives
Retailers are also finding unique ways to try and get Canadians shopping first in Canada.
Best Buy, for example, is offering a Black Friday sale starting on Thursday.
“One thing new this year for Best Buy is to have a VIP sale on Thursday, November 26 and what that does it allows Canadians that may still want to shop in the States an opportunity to get their electronic purchases done ahead of time,” said Chun.
London Drugs is also keeping with tradition and preparing for Black Friday.
“We guarantee our pricing. We have a 30-day price protection. So if somebody buys it either from us or from a competitor, if that price should go down within 30 days we’ll gladly give them the difference back, no questions asked,” said Dave Woogman from London Drugs.
“We’ve really gone out and tried to find some hot pricing and some hot deals. We hope that people will stay home, shop at home and be rewarded for shopping at home.”
Canadian Tire will hold a “Red Thursday” event to kick off its four-day Black Friday sale, which it advertises as having deep discounts.
Price Comparison: Canada vs. U.S.
For Canadians still eyeing the U.S., Global News got access to a preview of some hot ticket items and compared them with U.S retailers to determine if it’s worth the time and effort to head south for Black Friday deals. We factored gas into our calculations.
“Black Friday as a whole is a brand. It’s a brand of sale. We put a lot of stock into what that brand means but it doesn’t mean we’re always getting the best price at every single place,” said Sharpe.
With the weak Canadian dollar, the cost of travel and headaches with American Black Friday crowds, it seems Canadians have a good chance of getting a great deal on home soil when they shop around.
Black Friday vs. Boxing Day
Commercial real estate company Collier’s International studied 44 products on flyers from nine national retailers in 2014 and compared prices between Black Friday and Boxing Day. The results show better prices on Boxing Day for 36 per cent of the products. However, if you’re looking for big ticket items, the report found that typically Black Friday has better deals.
“It’s ironic that they call it Boxing Day because I do think there’s a fight going on between what is going to be the champion,” said Sharpe, “Is it going to be Black Friday or Boxing Day? And I’m not sure where I am going to hedge my bets yet. I see that Black Friday really is an upcoming challenger. Boxing Day has always been traditionally where we as retailers in Canada have held onto but this is a chance to get instant gratification a little bit earlier than Christmas.”