The U.S. Thanksgiving shopping weekend bonanza has crept into Canada with a vengeance.
Retailers and shopping centre owners are increasingly pumping up their own deals on Black Friday, the day after the American Thanksgiving and one of the busiest shopping days of the year south of the border. Canadian stores are opening earlier this Friday try to keep customers from cross-border shopping for deep discounts.
On Friday, Cadillac Fairview Corp., one of this country's largest mall operators, will open nine Ontario shopping centres early on Black Friday in a bid to compete with U.S. retailers on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
In recent years, more Canadian retailers have been featuring discounts and price-matching on Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November.
Domestic players feel the pressures of the loonie remaining close to parity with the greenback, luring shoppers over the border to shop. As well, new rules this year allow shoppers to bring back more purchases without having to pay duties. Residents who leave the country for more than 24 hours can now bring back up to $200 in goods before paying tax, and for those who leave for two to seven days, the limit is $800.
Major retailers such as Wal-Mart Canada Corp. and Sears Canada Inc. have introduced door crashers and other deals over the past few years. This Friday, they're expanding the programs.
Toys "R" Us Canada will launch a week of half-price specials at 7 a.m. Friday, while Sears will begin its Black Friday blitz on Thursday. Fashion chain the Gap is touting "Bright Friday" sales of up to 60 per cent off regular prices.
Cadillac Fairview will open eight of its mall properties at 7 a.m., while the Toronto Eaton Centre will open at 6 a.m. rather than regular 9:30 a.m.
Half of consumers in the Greater Toronto Area plan to shop on Black Friday while 40 per cent plan to make purchases on so-called Cyber Monday, according to a new survey by Accenture in Canada. (Cyber Monday falls on the Monday after Black Friday and is known for big online sales.)
On a broader perspective, 60 per cent of Canadians say they expect Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to be better than those on Boxing Day, according to a survey done for Staples. It found 63 per cent of Canadians intend to buy tech products, with a quarter of the population planning to spend roughly $245 on them.
Even Amazon.ca has got into the action early, starting early this week with discounts of up to 80 per cent on a range of products from electronics to toys and pet supplies.
In numbers released Wednesday, comScore Inc. said online sales in the first 18 days of the holiday shopping season in the U.S. have increased 16 per cent over 2011 and is predicting a 17-per-cent sales jump to $43.4-billion (U.S.) for the November-December period. "This spending growth also reflects the continuing channel shift to online as consumers increasingly opt for the attractive pricing, convenience and product selection it offers," chairman Gian Fulgoni said in a statement.
Canadian bargain curator site RedFlagDeals.com saw a surge in the number of Black Friday deals available to Canadians last year and expects that number to increase again this year. Product manager Andrew Lau said Canadian consumers have become more aware of Black Friday in recent years and use it as a chance to do some holiday shopping. In 2010, he said RedFlagDeals.com posted between 50 and 60 Black Friday deals from Canadian retailers. That number grew to over 150 last year.
As the number of consumers shopping online grows, bargain websites and online retailers in Canada and the U.S. have begun offering loyalty programs to readers offering a percentage of each sale back to the consumer. RedFlagDeals.com launched such a rewards program in August and plans to operate it year-round.
"We can earn commission if we're generating traffic and sales at online retailers and would like to give back some of that to readers," said Mr. Lau. When readers connect to a participating online retailer via RedFlagDeals.com and make a purchase, a percentage of the sale will be returned to them at a later date either in the form of a cheque or refund to their PayPal account.
With files from Danielle Webb