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Black Friday gains ground in Canada as Americans rein in spending

Black Friday gains ground in Canada as Americans rein in spending

Black Friday may have been a bust this year for many American retailers, but, closer to home, the popularity of the annual four-day sales event isn’t slowing, but steadily picking up steam.

Retail analyst David Ian Gray of the Vancouver-based agency DIG360 was still crunching this year’s data as of Dec. 3, but predicted a “nominal increase” in both in-store and online traffic during Black Friday in Canada in 2014 over last year.

In 2013, the agency found about a quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) made at least one purchase during Black Friday sales. Another 28 per cent browsed for deals but bought nothing.

This year, Gray said, the percentage of buyers is expected to hit the low 30s, but, “I don’t think it will skyrocket to 40 or 50 per cent.”

The number of browsers was expected to hold steady.

For bricks-and-mortar retailers, there was good news: Most Canadians (more than 70 per cent) prefer to do their Black Friday shopping in actual physical locations close to home. By comparison, only 11 per cent of Canadians visited a store in Canada on Black Friday, 2011, Gray said.

At the same time, our appetite for e-commerce is also growing, breathing new life into Cyber Monday.

A PayPal survey conducted on the last of the four-day event traditionally noted for its online deals found consumer use of mobile devises (including smartphones and tablets) to make purchases more than doubled in 2014 compared to the previous year.

PayPal itself recorded a 46 per cent jump over 2013 in the number of shoppers using its mobile payment platform on Cyber Monday this year. Mobile users showed a distinct preference for clothing and accessories. The fashion category drove nearly twice as much online traffic this year as electronics.

“We saw the same trend last year as well,” said Kerry Reynolds, head of consumer marketing at PayPal Canada.

Reynolds said the increase in mobile use on Cyber Monday has much to do with convenience, noting many retailers are improving their mobile experiences to make shopping easier and more comfortable for consumers.

“Indigo, The Bay, Toys R Us – they all have fantastic mobile experiences so you are getting the most up-to-date notifications on sales and you are able to act on them right away.”

Diane Brisebois, president and CEO of the Retail Council of Canada, said consumer interest in Black Friday and Cyber Monday has yet to reach its peak.

But, she said, it’s unlikely a Canadian version of the event will ever inspire the kind of crazy behaviour seen in past years in the United States (when fist fights were not uncommon in the toy and electronics aisles).

“In Canada, it’s a fun event for consumers, but it’s not what drives the holiday season. It is just one of the events,” she said.

Brisebois said Boxing Week, which begins Dec. 26, is still the biggest retail sales event in Canada.

Moneris, the Toronto-based payment processing company, was unable to provide the most-recent spending data from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2013, however, the company noted overall spending was up 19 per cent year-over-year, and online shopping during Black Friday was up 36 per cent, showing that more transactions are happening online during the Black Friday period (not just on Cyber Monday).

Other findings from 2013:

  • Spending on men’s clothing was up 53 per cent year-over-year, cameras were up 40 per cent, sporting goods up 40 per cent, shoes up 37 per cent and women’s accessories up 28 per cent.

  • Shoppers spent 57 per cent more the week of Black Friday than the week previous, and 144 per cent more on electronics during Black Friday week than the previous week.

  • On Cyber Monday, shoppers spent 246 per cent more on electronics online than the previous Monday.

  • Ecommerce around Black Friday and Cyber Monday was 50 per cent greater than in Boxing Week, 2013.

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