TORONTO - The Canadian holiday shopping season is looking decidedly more American this year as retailers schedule a rush of Black Friday events in hopes that consumers will shop at home, rather than head south of the border.
Whether its extended hours at some of the country's busiest malls or door crasher events and heavy markdowns, most big name retailers have hopped on the Black Friday bandwagon with the fanfare once reserved for the Boxing Day holiday.
Black Friday is timed to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, and has become a tradition for many families who gather for dinner, then wake up early the next morning to take advantage of deep discounts.
The day serves to kick off the holiday shopping season — the time when retailers turn a profit, or go "into the black" — and is widely considered the busiest shopping day of the year.
It may just be a random November day for Canadians, but shoppers north of the border are increasingly buying into Black Friday, and the Monday after, which has come to be known as Cyber Monday because it's when online retailers tend to hold their sales.
A CIBC (TSX:CM) poll conducted by Harris/Decima being released Monday suggests nearly one-in- ten of the 1,000 Canadian survey respondents plans on making a purchase during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales period — suggesting that millions of Canadians will be shopping for holiday deals this weekend.
Many Canadian retailers have jumped on the trend as a new way to angle a promotion, says Mark Satov, founder of management consulting firm Satov Consultants Inc.
"Some retailers are feeling there's a lot of dead time between Halloween and Christmas," he said.
"If you're advertising a general event, you're creating the impression that everything is on sale, and when consumers get there, everything doesn't have to be on sale, but they're there anyway, so they're going to buy."
Promotional campaigns will be splashed across store windows and in flyers across the country this week, with retailers from Gap Inc. to PetSmart hopping aboard the trend to offer extended hours and sales.
Other retailers appear to share that enthusiasm, including The Bay, which angled a mid-November sale as "Black Friday arrives early" — even though it was nearly a week and a half before U.S. Thanksgiving. Some retailers will stretch out Black Friday nearly as long, such as The Body Shop which is promoting sales that last for a week.
But Canada's version of Black Friday won't be everything it's hyped to be, some suggest.
"It's a myth," says retail consultant Jim Danahy of CustomerLAB, which works with companies in all categories including drug, department, food and specialty retailers.
"Stores are not bringing merchandise in any sooner than they were before. They are not changing their promotional calendars. It is simply the super-imposition of a term that exists in the United States here."
In some ways, drumming up enthusiasm for Black Friday is a move of desperation for Canadian retailers who are dealing with consumers who expect a lot more from their local stores than they did five years ago.
The high value of the loonie and the availability of many U.S. deals online have encouraged Canadians to spend their money at American retailers.
A survey released last week by Visa Canada found that about 44 per cent of respondents to a poll said they were planning to take advantage of discounts offered online by American retailers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The response marked a 10 per cent increase over a year ago, according to the survey conducted by Ipsos Reid.
At one time, the event was on the radar of only the most avid Canadian shoppers, who would head stateside to capture the best deals, sometimes carpooling with friends or taking one of the many charter buses that head south for day trips. But when the loonie soared above parity in 2007, a growing number of Canadians began to take advantage of the cheaper price tags offered by American stores.
Since then, Black Friday has grown to be a part of Canadian shopping culture, and cross-border shopping could prove particularly competitive this year after the federal government relaxed the rules in June.
Cross-border shoppers who stay overnight in the United States are now allowed to bring back up to $200 worth of merchandise duty-free, rather than just $50 before the new rules were put in place.
For people who travel between two and seven days, the limit has doubled to $800 from $400 while the limit for visits of more than a week increases to $800 from $750.
Whether the rule changes will encourage more Canadians to shop stateside remains to be seen, but retailers aren't taking any chances. This year, both Best Buy Canada and Future Shop join the list of companies that will champion their own Black Friday sales.
"A lot of Canadians who might've planned to go to the States to shop, maybe they'll come here instead," said spokeswoman Danielle Jang.
"We want to give Canadians a reason to shop with us."
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Black Friday Romance?
<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/black-friday-shopping-spree-love-story-long-island-couple-article-1.414121" target="_hplink">According to the <em>New York Daily News</em></a>, two individuals have Black Friday to thank for their unique love-at-first-sight story. The two lovebirds struck up conversation while standing in line at a Long Island Kmart. The small talk turned into sweet talk as the two waited in line together for a total of seven hours before doors opened. Fast forward two years, and the couple is happily married with fond memories of the day they met, saying, "Black Friday will always be a memorable day for us. That was the day that changed our lives." (Getty photo)
Woman Shakes Up Shoppers With Death Threats
Shoppers were shaken up last year at Toys "R" Us in Wisconsin, when a woman named Lanessa Lattimore threatened to shoot shoppers who were waiting in line outside the store. A confrontation began after the woman tried to cut the line of several hundred people. <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2010-11-26/justice/wisconsin.shopper.threat_1_gun-threat-black-friday-shopper-huge-lines?_s=PM:CRIME" target="_hplink">Lanessa told CNN</a>, "Everybody was cutting in line. But there was one girl who was threatening me, so I told her that I'd shoot her." Although no weapon was found, she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. (Getty photo)
Kim Kardashian: Best Black Friday Buddy?
A poll conducted by AOL back in 2009 revealed that Kim Kardashian was voted the person you'd most like to go shopping with on Black Friday, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/online-poll-kanye-west-named-year-biggest-turkey-kim-kardashian-best-black-friday-shopper-article-1.165773" target="_hplink">as the NY Daily News reported</a>. She even beat out Victoria Beckham for the best shopping buddy title. Would you want to spend Black Friday shopping with Kim? Something tells us that the poll results would be <em>quite</em> a bit different this year... (Getty photo)
... And Kayne West, The Biggest "Turkey"?
The same AOL poll that voted Kim K. as the "best shopping buddy" also revealed that Americans think Kanye West was the biggest "turkey" of 2009... whatever that means. Bear in mind that this poll took place shortly after his Taylor Swift interruption scandal at the Grammy's that year. <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/online-poll-kanye-west-named-year-biggest-turkey-kim-kardashian-best-black-friday-shopper-article-1.165773" target="_hplink">According to the New York Daily News</a>, Kanye beat out the likes of Jon Gosselin, Levi Johnston, Spencer Pratt,and Michael Lohan. In other words, it sounds like being called a "turkey" is just a kinder way of saying "biggest D-bag." (Getty photo)
Wal-Mart Employee Trampled To Death
A tragic story took place at a Wal-Mart in Long Island in 2008. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/business/29walmart.html?ref=blackfriday" target="_hplink">As the <em>New York Times</em> reported</a>, an employee by the name of Jdimytai Damour got caught amidst utter chaos in a stampede on Black Friday, resulting in his ultimate death. Sources say that Damour was literally trampled to death by crazed shoppers, although no specific individual could be called out and held responsible for the fatal accident. Wal-Mart was also slapped with a $75K fine, according to the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/7k-fine-wal-mart-black-friday-stampede-death-article-1.404243" target="_hplink"><em>New York Daily News</em></a>.
Two Men Shot Dead At Toys "R" Us
A heated argument between two men lead to a deadly shooting at a Toys "R" Us in Palm Desert, California on the biggest sales day back in 2008. <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2008-11-28/us/black.friday.violence_1_wal-mart-worker-fleming-busiest-shopping-days/2?_s=PM:US" target="_hplink">According to CNN</a>, police still aren't completely certain about the origin of the fight, although sources believe that it was unrelated to the timing of Black Friday sales that day. Luckily, no innocent shoppers were injured during the shooting.
Shopping Cart Heist
A strange shopping cart heist took place at a Toys "R" Us in the Bronx in 2009, <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bronx/shopping-cart-thefts-began-black-friday-500-bronx-toys-article-1.435826" target="_hplink">the <em>New York Daily News</em> reported</a>. Thieves stole 500 shopping carts starting on Black Friday and continued to nab carts throughout the holiday season. Shoppers were left annoyed as they were forced to carry all of their purchases, since no carts were anywhere to be found. Police suspect that the carts -- which cost a hefty $200 a piece -- were either stolen by gang members to sell metal scraps for money or taken by homeless people who use them to carry their belongings. (AP Image)
Hotel Deals For The Extreme Shopper
When stores in Indianapolis had a super successful Black Friday back in 2009, hotels decided to try and take advantage of visiting shoppers by targeting the <em>eve</em> of Black Friday. <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2010-11-14-black-friday-hotels_N.htm" target="_hplink">According to <em>USA Today</em></a>, the Conrad Hotel was among the first to notice this opportunity and advertised to serious out-of-town shoppers who planned on rising early to hit the sales. The deal offers $99 for a room on Thanksgiving night, as well as a personal shopping appointment at Nordstrom, a free coffee and a free shoeshine. Other hotels have also developed similar deals to cash in on the night of Thanksgiving, too. It sure beats camping out overnight for the doors to open in the morning. (Getty photo)
Shooting Over Flat Screen TV
Another story that will make your heart sink: the tragic shooting of a man in Queens who was shot by robbers on Black Friday back in 2009, as the<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/black-friday-mayhem-queens-man-shot-flat-screen-tv-thugs-t-fit-set-getaway-car-article-1.413993" target="_hplink"> <em>New York Daily News</em></a> first reported. The elderly man was walking with his new flat-screen TV in a parking lot, when robbers ruthlessly shot him dead in an attempt to steal his new purchase. However, the TV didn't fit in the trunk of their getaway car, and witnesses reported that they dumped the TV on the street as they quickly fled the scene of the crime. (Getty photo)