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Should Boxing Day shopping become a thing of the past?

[Should Boxing Day sales be a thing of the past?]

A petition in the UK calling on policymakers to shutter shops on Boxing Day is gaining momentum with over 210,000 signatures.

“Whilst not everyone may see Christmas as a religious holiday, it should be respected as such, and retail workers – who work so hard on the run up to the big day – given some decent family time to relax and enjoy the festivities like everyone else,” says the petition, created by Ian Lapworth, pointing out that many retail workers finish on Christmas Eve and are back to work on Boxing Day morning. “Forget making money for one day, let’s concentrate on making more memories with the ones we love.”

But despite the petition’s growing call to shut shops in the UK, retail analysts in Canada, where Boxing Day is the biggest day of the year for many retailers, say we’re not likely to see any sort of move to close stores here.

“There’s some very interesting waves of change happening in the UK right now as it relates to the view on business like Brexit for instance, so this is an interesting development that could in my opinion be related to that,” says Bruce Winder, a retail consultant and partner at the Retail Advisors Network. “But in Canada, Boxing Day has a very long history.”

He points out that while it’s a critical day for retailers to draw down inventory by offering deep discounts on products accumulated over the holiday season, it’s also etched into the DNA of the Canadian consumer.

“Retailers, like consumers, have grown accustomed to that wonderful sales boost they get when they hold these events and they definitely wouldn’t want to give that up (but) consumers are conditioned now to wait for the deals as well,” he says.

While the petition centred on marking it as a holiday for the sake of the employee, retailers in Canada are able to stay open as they see fit, explains John Williams, senior partner with global retail advisors, the J.C. Williams Group.

And in many cases, employers will hire holiday staff specifically to support them through the holiday season under the auspice they will be working on Christmas Eve and/or Boxing Day.

“A lot of part time employment is created throughout the holiday season and Boxing Day is a big part of it,” says Williams.

But one place where you might see a shift in staffing on Boxing Day is where they’re working, with the growth in online shopping perhaps leading to less employees on the floor and more in the order fulfillment warehouse, says Williams.

Winder agrees, pointing out that it could become more of a cyber holiday as millennials and generation Z overturn the aging generation X and the boomers, and lead the consumer generation into the new, nearly exclusively digital-driven, shopping space.

“People are more time starved and society has become much more focused on convenience now and tech enables that,” says winder. “It wouldn’t surprise me if in five to ten years or so if people don’t really show up at a store at seven in the morning – (Boxing Day) just might actually become obsolete.”