Canadian shoppers craving a deal increasingly turn to Black Friday — a sales bonanza imported from the U.S., where retailers have long slashed prices the day after their Thanksgiving holiday — seemingly at the expense of another sales spree, Boxing Day.
Industry watchers say consumers plan to spend before Christmas and check gifts off their holiday lists, and the change offers retailers a slight edge.
“[Black Friday] is fulfilling an unmet need,” said Michael Leblanc, a senior retail adviser with the Retail Council of Canada, an advocacy group. It gives consumers the chance to secure deals on presents rather than shop after the gift-giving season is over.
Forty-three per cent of respondents to the group’s second annual holiday shopping survey planned to purchase items on Black Friday — up from 40 per cent the previous year. Only 34 per cent of respondents intended to shop on Boxing Day.
A survey by Deloitte Canada showed a similar disenchantment with the Dec. 26 sales day. Only one out of three respondents wanted to shop during the stretched-out, week-long event. The same number said the earlier Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales changed their habits for Boxing Day.
Spending figures from previous years suggest this shifting consumer sentiment is ongoing.
Boxing Day ‘significantly’ less popular
Canadians made six per cent more debit transactions on last year’s Black Friday than in 2017, according to data from payment processor Moneris. Black Friday also earned the title of biggest shopping day of the year for transaction volume.
Meanwhile, Boxing Day growth slowed in 2018, and the Friday and Saturday before Christmas surpassed it in transactions and dollars spent, the company said.
The shopping day “has dropped significantly in popularity with consumers,” Moneris said
Interac Corp. recorded jumps in debit transactions on Black Friday of more than four per cent for the past three years, while the total amount spent rose steadily as well. Its yearly growth in both categories for Boxing Day was higher, but the overall number of Interac debit transactions and the total volume of spending are about half of those seen on Black Friday.
Mad scramble in U.S.
In the U.S., Black Friday shoppers fought for parking spots and travelled cross-state to their favourite malls.
Retailers were expecting a mad scramble because Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November, is six days later than it was last year. That means customers will have fewer days to shop before Christmas and retailers will have less time to woo them.
At Macy’s Herald Square in the Manhattan area of New York City, there was a steady stream of shoppers by 7 a.m. ET in search of deals from 40 per cent to 60 per cent on everything from boots to sheets. The crowds grew bigger an hour later.