Is it just me, or does Black Friday seem to get more and more ubiquitous in Canadian stores every year?
Loblaws, The Hudson’s Bay Company, Chapters, Canadian Tire, Roots and The Real Canadian Superstore are just some of the iconic Canadian brands offering deep discounts on the Friday following America’s Thanksgiving, marking the start of the first official shopping weekend of America’s Holiday Season…in Canada.
Large numbers of Canadian retailers started offering Black Friday deals in 2008, in an effort to dissuade Canadian shoppers from taking advantage of massive across-the-border deals. Less than 10 years later, some market experts think Canadians have already fallen out of love with this American retail holiday.
According to a 2017 survey from online savings portal RetailMeNot.ca, only 26 per cent of Canadians plan to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to help save on their holiday shopping. Maybe that’s because most Canadians believe there are better deals and deeper discounts to be had on our traditional shopping holiday: Boxing Day.
But are they right?
Boxing Day Blowout?
In most cases I’ve researched, Boxing Day has the edge. For example, Boxing Day 2016 saw WalMart sell a PlayStation 4 (PS4) with a 500 GB hard drive, bundled with NHL’17 for a flyer price of $299.96 plus tax. On Black Friday 2016 they advertised a PS4 with the same hard drive capacity bundled with Uncharted 4 for $329.96. If the Canadian who grabbed their PS4 bundle on Black Friday had waited until Boxing Day, they would have saved an extra $30.00 off of a console bundle that normally retailed at $379.96 – that’s an $80.00 savings on Boxing Day versus a $50 savings on Black Friday.
How about The Source? The electronics retailer offered a 58-inch Smart TV with LED display on Black Friday 2016 for $749.99, but then knocked down the same model another $50 to $699.99 on Boxing Day. The person who bought that TV on Black Friday saved $250, but the person who bought it on Boxing Day saved $300.
|Walmart: PS4 500 GB Bundle||Lord & Taylor: Cashmere Sweater||The Source: 58-inch Smart TV w/LED|
|Black Friday Price||$329.96||$79.99||$749.99|
|Boxing Day Price||$299.96||$64.99||$699.99|
These are just three examples, but the pattern largely follows that of research conducted in 2015 by Colliers International. In it, they found that of 44 products from nine major retailers, 38 per cent were more heavily discounted on Boxing Day, 16 per cent were more heavily discounted on Black Friday, and the rest stayed at the same discount on both days.
So why is Boxing Day holding the advantage for bargain hunters?
It’s All About Inventory
“I think Boxing Day comes at a better time of year than Black Friday does,” says James Smerdon, vice-president and director of Retail Consulting at Colliers. “Retailers know what sold during the run up to Christmas and they know what prices need to be on the remaining items to clear them out.”
He’s exactly right. According to Michael LeBlanc, a retail consultant for the Retail Council of Canada, how things are priced during the holiday season mostly depends on what’s left in the inventory.
“Black Friday continues to grow in importance — even since 2015 — on the retail holiday calendar in addition to Boxing Day, and retailers will plan out their promotions to have attractive offers for both events,” says LeBlanc.
“It can be the case that a retailer might elect to be more aggressive on their pricing for Boxing Day based on their inventory levels – how their overall sales were on any particular item or category during the Holiday season. Boxing Day is an opportunity then to help retailers, where necessary, to clear any excess inventory before the year ends,” he adds.
But despite Boxing Day’s victory in discount domination, all is not lost for the dedicated Black Friday shoppers.
Last Ditch Discounts
There are bound to be a few bargain hunters reading this who are ride-or-die when it comes to a Black Friday sale no matter what. Those people can still get the most bang for their buck if they approach Black Friday with a little more strategy than just door crasher deals and fighting their way through crowds.
First, know that there are still deeper discounts to be had south of the border than anything a Canadian retailer will offer. Go to theblackfriday.com and you’ll find that GameStop is selling another PlayStation 4 with double the capacity of the one Walmart Canada carried on Black Friday and Boxing Day (1 TB). Better yet, it’s bundled not with a game, but with a $50 gift card. Total price? $199.99 US – about $85 CAD less than its Canadian counterpart.
So, yes, the Black Friday deals across the border are unfortunately incomparable to their Canadian equivalents (to use that term liberally). But if you happen to shop on Black Friday in Canada and want to guard against potentially deeper discounts by Boxing Day, you can take Smerdon’s final advice:
“Shop in-store at Black Friday Sales in Canada. Ask if they will guarantee the price through Boxing Day sales. If not, go elsewhere. Alternatively, shop at Boxing Day sales only for things you need at prices you can afford,” he says.