Canadians planning to shop during Boxing Week should be prepared for subdued sales — and an in-store shopping experience — this year.
Bruce Winder, a Toronto-based retail analyst and author, says that shopping on Boxing Day and the following Boxing Week is looking to be much “softer” in both people and discounts.
“Boxing Day has been in decline a little bit for a while, as Black Friday has sort of become the prominent shopping holiday in the fourth quarter now,” said Winder in an interview with Global News.
Winder’s forecast comes amid a swathe of factors playing into the subdued expectations for this year’s Boxing Day: wide restrictions put in place against the spread of COVID-19, a deep supply chain crisis that has suppliers facing burdening demands and sellers offering discounts far from what they normally would be and even burgeoning rates of inflation that have sent prices skyrocketing.
Despite what he and other experts describe as a years-long decline for the biggest shopping day of the year, a new survey points to the vast majority of Canadians as still planning to shop during Boxing Week.
A survey released by shopping forum RedFlagDeals.com found that more than nine in 10 Canadians were planning to do some shopping during the week, and that almost 40 per cent of those already planning to shop were looking to spend a considerable amount of cash — $300 or more.
The survey, which had nearly 1,400 respondents, also pointed to the vast majority of shoppers leaning towards online shopping, with over 60 per cent stating they would do all their shopping solely online, and another 30 per cent saying they would do a mix of both in-store and online.
Kate Musgrove, director RedFlagDeals.com, said that renewed public health restrictions, including border closures, may have paved the way for shoppers to focus on finding online deals as opposed to going in-store or crossing the Canada-U.S. border in search of the best bargains.
“There may have been a time maybe 10 years ago when Canadians would cross the border, hit the stores and get those in-store items, particularly when the dollar was at par,” said Musgrove in an interview with the Canadian Press.
“Now it’s not as easy to cross the border and the dollar isn’t really equitable with the U.S. dollar.”
New in-store capacity limits imposed by at least six provinces, including Canada’s two most populous ones, have also somewhat pulled the rug from underneath shoppers hoping to take part in the festive buying spree this year as well.
Daily COVID-19 cases spurred by the emergence of the Omicron variant may have also made consumers think twice about heading out to hunt for the best in-store deals as well, with provinces tallying record infection numbers in the past week.
But despite the risk, some Canadian shoppers still seemed undeterred, with long lineups forming outside the Hudson Bay building in Montreal and the Eaton Centre in Toronto.
In Metro Vancouver, shoppers had to brave cold winter weather on Sunday, with lineups beginning at around 5 a.m. at some store locations.
Young Le-Roque, store leader of Best Buy Kingsway in Burnaby, B.C., said that some patrons had waited upwards of an hour to enter.
“Boxing Day is always our biggest day of the year and we’re prepared for it,” Le-Roque told Global News. “It’s great to see so many of our customers showed up even with the weather outside.”
Ultimately, Winder says that he’s never quite seen a shopping holiday impacted by as many factors as this year’s Boxing Week.
“So I’ve never seen a holiday with so many moving parts that are out of sync,” he said.
“It’s totally new territory.”
— With files from The Canadian Press