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Canadians are set to shop this season

Toronto Eaton Centre. Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Toronto Eaton Centre.
Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Whether you want to buy a crock pot for your mom or the latest seven inch HD screen tablet (so you can watch Netflix in bed), you can’t run away from shopping this time of the year, with discounts calling your name in every busy store.

But some suggest there isn’t anything special about most deals as they’re promoted.

“I’m sure some of the deals are true. And I’m very sure most of them or a lot of them are not true. A recent survey came through the U.S. retail information wires yesterday that a great deal of the so-called Black Friday deals in the United States were no better than all the ones they’ve been running all year round,” said John Williams, senior partner at J.C. Williams Group, a company that excels in retail advising.

“My guess is that probably happens a bit in Canada, too,” he said.

“In Canada it’s a phony holiday. It’s just made up to copy Americans. It’s an excuse to try and offer more discounts to entice people to shop on this particular Friday. Actually Black Friday is because of Thanksgiving day, being on Thursday and then everybody takes a day off and then they shop in the United States.”

And while some of these sales might be bogus, in any case, economic forecasts suggest purchasing power of Canadian households is currently pretty strong.

Inflation is running weak in Canada with a rate between 1 and 1.5 per cent, while wage growth is between 2.5 to 3 per cent, which means Canadian households have decent purchasing power, said Pedro Antunes, director of economic forecasting analysis division with Conference Board of Canada.

Antunes said another reason buyers are exploring this time around is because interest rates in Canada are quite low, which boosts sales of purchases that may require financing.

“For some goods like auto sales, which are usually financed, interest rates play an important role, similarly, with the real estate market and home purchases, as well. I think we’re still seeing a solid market there and that tends to have effects on furniture when people fill their homes with durable goods like furniture and appliances,” he said.

Williams agrees that stores will see an increase in sales.

“Black Friday in Canada is not a traditional shopping day. Now, given the fact that stores are putting a lot of effort into having extra promotions where they didn’t have a year or two or three years ago. The stores will see an increase in sales. But it’s a made up event. It doesn’t have any real significance to Canadians other than it’s another day with retailers on sale,” he said.

A survey published by Staples Canada concluded most shoppers spend about $600 in holiday gifts, while one in five shoppers spend about $1000 or more.

Another study, published by Sears Canada in October, found seven out of 10 respondents wanted Canadian retailers to offer Black Friday sales. Perhaps that’s the reason deals are so visible online and in stores, with some scheduled to kick off a day or two early, while other stores are planning to open doors at 6 a.m.

Williams said Black Friday sales aren’t a Canadian tradition, however, he said there is a marginal increase in overall holiday shopping this season of about two to three per cent.

“I think Canadian stores are putting on Black Friday to keep Canadians who do go to the United States in Canada.  I don’t blame them for doing that. Customers are heading south of the border, you say, I better put on my own Black Friday and offer them bargains so they don’t have to go all the way to United States to buy,” he said.

Still, despite Canadian retailers’ Black Friday offerings, he still thinks many Canadian shoppers will be heading across the border this season.

“I think it’s a Canadian tradition if you’re near a border town to go down south and I’m sure there is an awful lot of Canadian license plates that will be in the parking lots of U.S. malls shopping for Black Friday.”

But this Friday isn’t the end; the weekend follows with promotions, leading up to Cyber Monday. Williams said online shopping has been on the rise in recent years both north and south of the border.

“Online shopping is growing enormously. In retailing today in Canada and the U.S. it’s the only channel where it’s growing. Stores are remaining stagnant or even down a little so retailers are covering from online shopping,” he said.

He remembered coming across a survey that said about 34 per cent of Canadians were not planning to go to the store at all, but instead, planned to shop online. “And if I recall correctly, 33 per cent were going to cross shop store and online whereas 25 per cent will shop only in stores,” he added.

Yonge and Dundas, Toronto. Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Yonge and Dundas, Toronto.
Courtesy: Flickr Commons

A release by Amazon.ca said Cyber Monday proved to be the website’s busiest day last year. Also, Future Shop Canada has been witnessing an increase of 25 per cent every year for Cyber Monday sales, with increasing web traffic figures, said Elliott Chun, communications manager for the company.

“Black Friday is becoming more of a popular term as compared to back in 2009 when we first did our VIP sale, the awareness of the term Black Friday was next to nothing (then). Whereas today, it’s become a lot more common and that has a bit of an edge,” he said.

At the same time, he said awareness about Cyber Monday wouldn’t be ignored, given the fact that shoppers don’t have to go from one store to another to find deals.

According to a study released by Ebates.ca, a cash-back shopping website, 55 per cent of shoppers shop online in the evening, 21 per cent do it in the afternoon, while ten per cent of the working Canadian population said they shopped from the office about six times a year, concluding that online shopping in Canada is certainly growing.

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