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Five million Canadians to play hooky from work to shop Black Friday, Cyber Monday: survey

Wal-Mart is spreading “Black Friday” sales over a five-day period from the last week of November into early December. WSJ's Shelly Banjo and Simon Constable discuss. Photo: Getty

Suddenly feeling flu-ish? Not to worry. You’re probably coming down with shopping fever.  

It’s the latest pandemic to sweep the country and threatens to take as many as 5.1 million Canadians temporarily out of the workforce as we stampede across the border and online to take advantage of the mega deals on offer during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

A new survey by the New York-based marketing firm IPG Mediabrands found a staggering one million Canadian workers plan on phoning in sick on Nov. 28 and/or Dec. 1, the dates of this year’s retail blitz.

Another 4.1 million employees have scheduled their holidays around the event, with an estimated $13.4 billion set to be spent online and in stores, the survey found.

The poll indicates nearly half of all Canadians, 16.3 million, plan to hit the sales on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Nearly 30 per cent of respondents said they will hit the sales on both days.

Loraine Cordery, head of marketing and insight with IPG Mediabrands, said the statistics speak to the exploding popularity in Canada of what has, until recently, been largely an American tradition.

So keen are Canadians on these pre-holiday shopping opportunities, the event threatens to outstrip Boxing Day deals as the biggest sales event of the year.

“That pattern is changing,” Cordery told Yahoo Canada Finance, noting 75 per cent of Canadians perceive they are getting better deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, compared to Boxing Day.

“Employers need to take note that these days are fast becoming a big part of the Canadian lifestyle,” she said. 

At work, not working

If you are among the 2.3 million Canadians who will be at work, but intend to sneak in some bargain hunting during business hours, you may first want to take the time to better understand your employer’s policies around Internet use.

Canadian companies are becoming increasingly strict around how and when employees are accessing the Internet at work as awareness of the U.S. sales extravaganza grows on this side of the border.

More than half (51 per cent) of chief information officers (CIOs) interviewed for a new Robert Half Technology survey said their companies intend to block access to online shopping on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s an increase of 19 per centsince 2012.

Less than one in five CIOs (16 per cent) say they will allow unrestricted access to shopping, while 30 per cent said they allow access but monitor activity for excessive use, the survey found.

Chris Brady, division director with Robert Half Technology, recommends employers spend the time in the coming days to let staff know what’s expected of them during the sales event. At the same time, he said employees can avoid problems with the boss by learning the company’s web-use rules. Those who are permitted to use company equipment to browse for deals, or want to use their own phones or tablets to shop, should consider setting strict time limitations, or even stepping outside the office to shop during a break or lunch hour.

And when the purchases are completed, always remember to log out from the merchant accounts to protect your own, and your company’s, privacy.

“It all comes back to good business etiquette,” Brady said.

Will Pate, vice president of digital strategy with m2 in Toronto, said Canada’s growing interest in Cyber Monday, in particular, is good news for local retailers. Citing results of the Mediabrands survey, he noted that $6.6 billion is expected to be spent by Canadians shopping online on Dec. 1. Of that, roughly half, $3.4 billion, will go to U.S. websites.

“That is 50 per cent of spend that could be grabbed back by retailers on this side of the border,” Pate said.

Pate said Canadian retailers could benefit from finding ways to make it more convenient for shoppers to keep their money closer to home, rather than trying to compete with American companies on price.

About a quarter of Canadian Black Friday shoppers say they willing to cross the border to looking for deals in the U.S., the study found.

Cross-border shoppers are most likely to come from Ontario (39 per cent) and least likely to come from Quebec (54 per cent).