Black Friday follow-up: Was it worth it for canadian retailers?

Without much debate, every American shopper and retailer knows that Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year. It is observed on the day after Thanksgiving and is regarded by many retailers as the official start of the holiday shopping season. On Black Friday, it is not uncommon to see stores open just before sunrise. After all, retailers spend huge amounts of money on advertising for this day – they want to keep the store open for as long as possible. On this day, it is also not uncommon to see hoards of people waiting outside for hours or even days before the store opens, forming long line-ups – no matter what the weather!

Just north of the border, Canadians have long heard about Black Friday – but what exactly are they doing about it? Canadians’ major discounting day is December 26th – better known as Boxing Day. On this day, retailers promote deep discounts and promotions in an effort to liquidate unsold Christmas products and stock newer products for the upcoming year.

Canadian news outlets often refer to Black Friday as “Grey Friday”. While retailers do hold discounts and promotions like its U.S. counterparts, the discounts aren’t as large. However, the deals have been getting bigger over the years as more retailers recognize its importance; but it is still a long shot from the deals south of the border. Some U.S. retailers like JC Penney, Macy’s, and Nordstrom are taking advantage of the situation and offering Canadians online deals that include taxes and duties at check out.

Black friday

The rise of Black Friday in Canada

Back in 2007 when the U.S. dollar hit parity with the Canadian dollar, Canadians swarmed across the border on Black Friday to get in on the great deals. This had a serious negative impact on retailers. Realizing they needed to plan for 2008, the phrase “Black Friday” emerged into Canadian marketing vocabulary.

Canadian deal aggregators like Red Flag Deals have been observing an increase in Black Friday deals since then. Company founder Derek Szeto notes that Google statistics for the last few years show Canadian searches for Black Friday have now exceeded searches for Boxing Day. “What we’ve seen every single year is more and more growth in participation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and we’ll see the same this year – that’s what all the signs are pointing to,” he says. For Canadians, he notes, “Cyber Monday has the potential to be even bigger than Black Friday, since Canadians can shop at U.S. stores right from their homes instead of having to cross the border.

Canadian retailers like Future Shop want Canadians to stay on their side of the border. The electronic retailer’s spokesperson Elliot Chun says, “We do know Black Friday is a day that has grown in awareness and significance, so we want to capture some of that crowd.” He also points out that Black Friday should serve as a reminder to consumers that they are only 30 days away from Christmas.

Will it continue to grow in Canada?

Going forward, Black Friday will gain more prominence and interest among retailers and consumers. In 2011, Canadian Black Friday sales were up 8.5 percent from 2010, while Cyber Monday sales grew at 15.4 percent according to a KPMG research study. Some factors that may impact Black Friday’s success in the future include:

  • U.S. retailers’ desires to move into the Canadian market (e.g.: Target)
  • Consumer awareness that the products bought in the U.S. don’t carry a warranty in Canada
  • Canadian shopping habits with a growing desire to shop online

As an increasing number of Canadians become aware of Black Friday, retailers will offer better deals in the future. But the deals might never be as good as those south of the border. Because the Canadian population is one-tenth the size of that of the U.S., Canadians lose out on economies of scale – causing relatively higher prices in Canada.

What can canadian retailers do?

Canadian retailers need to realize that Black Friday is not going away any time soon. If they don’t get on the bandwagon and offer deals to keep the customers engaged, their competitors will. Since many Canadians take advantage of Black Friday to do their Christmas shopping, a retailer that doesn’t offer Black Friday deals runs the risk of losing that customer for the rest of the Christmas season.

Canadian retailers also need to promote the benefits of shopping in Canada on Black Friday. For instance, pointing out the warranty benefits of shopping in Canada will help boost consumer confidence. Additionally, retailers can remind consumers they can get all the great deals locally without having to deal with the customs and duties charges of shopping south of the border.