Canadians Navigate Inflation and Extended Sales in Quest for Black Friday Bargains

As hordes of eager shoppers swarm local malls in pursuit of Black Friday treasures, Dianne Debarros of Sarnia, Ontario, has a strategic shopping list: discounted toys and laptops, essential for her kids' upcoming school needs. Despite already kickstarting her Christmas shopping, Debarros is keen on capitalizing on additional savings at Real Canadian Superstore, where loyalty program points are being dispensed in exchange for $100 purchases in select departments.

An astute deal hunter, Dianne, along with her partner Tom, operates a social media account on Instagram and TikTok, sharing their savvy shopping finds. Reflecting on the shopping landscape, she notes, "I feel like the last couple of years, the sales and the prices weren’t very good, but this year the prices seem to be reasonable and the incentives are there."

This year's Black Friday fervor holds a special significance for Canadians grappling with financial stress, given the persistent inflation that has kept prices elevated for household essentials and significant purchases. Concurrently, rising interest rates are leading to inflated mortgage payments for many homeowners. Faced with this economic backdrop, more Canadians are adopting a frugal approach, seeking out deals and scaling back on holiday expenditures.

According to Deloitte, the average Canadian shopper is expected to spend $1,347 this holiday season, reflecting an 11% decrease from the previous year. Of the surveyed individuals, approximately half plan to focus solely on essential family needs during the festive season. A notable 71% will actively seek items on sale, and 29% intend to explore more budget-friendly retail options.

Dianne Debarros observes, "Canadians are looking to really stretch their dollar," as she and her partner share money-saving tips, making Black Friday a prime event in their annual calendar. While Black Friday has evolved into a major shopping occasion, its origins in the 1960s trace back to Philadelphia, where the term was coined due to the chaos surrounding Thanksgiving and an annual army football game. Retailers later embraced the name, turning Black Friday into a nationwide tradition that has now found a home in Canada.

Today, Black Friday sales have become so ingrained in retail culture that many stores extend the practice throughout the month of November, turning it into a shopping marathon for Canadian consumers.

As the sales period stretches its boundaries, there's a growing sentiment that the significance of Black Friday itself is diminishing among Canadians. Nick Muriella, Vice President of Merchandising and Supply Chain at Toys "R" Us Canada, expressed this view a week prior to Black Friday, noting that the day has "lost its lustre." According to Muriella, the month-long cascade of sales has transformed Black Friday into merely "another way to say sale."

This trend towards an extended sales season is evident in retailers' strategies. Staples Canada, for instance, commenced its sales on November 1, recognizing the evolving shopping habits of consumers. Rachel Huckle, the retailer's President and Chief Operating Officer, explained, “They’re really trying to not leave it last minute." The motivation behind this shift is clear — avoiding the chaos of last-minute shopping, where rushed decisions are often made out of desperation.

In response to this, Staples Canada has introduced a proactive measure to ease the shopping frenzy. The company now guarantees that the prices of certain products will not drop further during the holiday season, providing shoppers with confidence in their purchases. Despite the prolonged sales period and this assurance, Huckle anticipates a bustling Black Friday at Staples Canada, as many view it as the day to intensify their shopping efforts. Some shoppers, she believes, are simply "creatures of habit," and the allure of Black Friday remains strong for those who thrive on the excitement of last-minute deals. As the holiday season unfolds, she expects a mix of early birds and those who, in their tradition, make a fashionably late entry into the shopping spree.

In conclusion, the evolving landscape of Black Friday in Canada reflects a shift in consumer behavior, with an extended sales period causing some to question the traditional importance of the day itself. As noted by industry experts like Nick Muriella of Toys "R" Us Canada, Black Friday seems to have lost some of its former allure, becoming synonymous with an extended season of discounts rather than a singular shopping event.

Retailers, such as Staples Canada, are adapting to changing consumer habits by initiating sales earlier in November. This proactive approach aims to cater to customers who prefer to avoid the rush and desperation of last-minute shopping. Despite these adjustments and the introduction of price guarantees, the anticipation remains high for a bustling Black Friday, with Rachel Huckle foreseeing a mix of early shoppers seizing the day to intensify their holiday purchases and habitual last-minute shoppers continuing their seasonal traditions.

As Canadians navigate economic challenges, the blend of inflation concerns and the desire to stretch their dollars further is shaping a shopping landscape where consumers seek value throughout the extended sales period. Black Friday, while evolving, continues to play a significant role in the retail calendar, representing both a culmination of extended discounts and a tradition that some shoppers still hold dear.