Issue 22, Volume 85
Nov. 28, 2012
American consumers weren’t the only people enjoying extravagant holiday sales on the weekend as the trend has crept its way north this year with Canadian retailers vying for a piece of the Black Friday pie.
Black Friday, coined in the 1960s to mark the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season, refers to the day after American Thanksgiving. Retailers have capitalized on consumers’ willingness to wait in excessively long lines and often brave dangerous circumstances to hone in on ‘door buster’ specials.
Across the U.S., 147 million shoppers took to malls and shopping centres over the weekend, down from 152 million in 2011, according to the National Retail Federation.
This was the first year that Windsor’s Devonshire Mall has officially embraced Black Friday. The mall’s marketing director, Karen Niforos, said every store wanted to take part in the event, but that “for the most part, our customers were asking for it.”
While Black Friday is not a traditional Canadian event, Nifros noted that that “being a border city, [mall retailers] really saw some merit in doing this. A lot of the border cities in our portfolio [are participating] anybody that is smart would do it; but for sure in border cities.
Windsor is the highest cross-border shopping city per-capita in Canada, according to the Retail Council of Canada, A study by the council finds only six per cent of Canadians shop in the States, though according to a survey released last week by Visa Canada, 44 per cent of Canadians are planning to shop at American retailers online this season.
Last June, the Canadian Government relaxed restrictions on the amount of
money that Canadians can spend duty-free while traveling stateside. For Canadians who spend more than 24 hours in the U.S., the limit has been raised to $200 from $150, while the limit for those who stay more than 48 hours is set at $800.
A strong Canadian dollar combined with relaxed restrictions provides an economic incentive for Canadians seeking to take part in the traditionally American celebration.
“I kind of hate myself for doing it, because I prefer to spend my money in Windsor, but we’ll probably spend quite a lot of money in the States this year,” said Paul St. Gregory, who was shopping with his family at Windsor Crossings Outlets on Friday.
I don’t make the kind of money that I did a few years ago and I still want to give my family the Christmas that they deserve so I end up going to [the U.S.] in order to stretch my dollar especially with the good exchange rate.”
According to Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at the Bank of Montreal, the allure of U.S. retailers will lead to at least a 25 per cent increase in lost sales abroad in November and December 2012, totalling $5 billion Canadian dollars dashing across the border.
St. Gregory expects to spend about half of his holiday budget in Windsor and the other half at malls in the greater Detroit area. Though after a stateside Black Friday shopping excursion last year, he decided to stay in Windsor on a “less insane day”.
“Last year we went to Great Lakes Crossing [Outlets in Auburn Hills, Mich,] on Black Friday and I almost had a panic attack, so we’re going during the week this time.”
While violence and injuries typically accommodate the day’s activities in the U.S., Niforos explained it wasn’t the ease in Windsor.
“Maybe it’s the politeness of the Canadian shopper,” joked Niforos. ‘ ‘Everything has been great [and] very well organized. People were just waiting in line, calm, cool, [and when] the doors opened, they filed in individually.”
Brittney Miller, employee at Devonshire Mall’s Teavana, said the Black Friday event went well and customers were nice, leaving her questioning, “Why would you go to the states to shop when you can stay here?”
Keeping locals shopping in Windsor is important for Niforos, “Growing up in Windsor, we’ve heard [supporting local] our whole lives we support our local automotive sector [and] supporting Iocal retail, to me, is exactly the same. We should always try to do that.”
Response to the event from retailers and customers was positive and Niforos said, traditionally, Santa’s arrival at the mall triggers the start of the holiday shopping season. “This year, I’d say starting [Friday] kicked off our season.”
Retailers seeking to further capitalize on the insatiable purchasing power of the general citizenry have marketed the Monday following Black Friday as Cyber Monday, which continues to garner the highest online sales of any day of the year.
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.