While the lure of deals south of the border might be appealing, experts say Montrealers might be better off staying put if they’re going to shop.
Deep discounts on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving were once a uniquely American phenomenon.
But Quebecers are now increasingly shopping on Black Friday.
At some downtown shopping centres, signs for Vendredi fou sales, as the shopping day has become known in French, have been up since last week and a number of retailers have already started discounting as part of “pre-Black Friday sales.”This year, according to a survey commissioned by the Retail Council of Canada, Black Friday could eclipse Boxing Day as Canada’s premier discount shopping day. Around 40 per cent of survey respondents said they plan to shop on Black Friday, compared with 35 per cent who said they plan to shop on Boxing Day.
So with Black Friday here, is it worth crossing the border for deals?
“I think even with the currency conversion, you can still get some better bargains in the States. In Canada, we really are paying more for a lot of stuff,” said Craig Patterson, the editor-in-chief of Retail Insider, an online industry publication.
But even with deep Black Friday discounts, consumers need to ask themselves if it’s worth the time, travel and gas, Patterson said.The relatively low Canadian dollar, currently worth US$0.76, is also a factor to consider.
“I would encourage people to stay home and shop, just given the time and effort it takes to go over the border,” Patterson said.
Robert Soroka, a marketing professor at Concordia University’s John Molson School of Business, has a similar take.
“Dollar for dollar, for a lot of product categories, you are paying lower in the U.S.,” he said.
But that’s not the only thing to consider.
“The cost of shopping is not just about the retail price. You have to consider a variety of other things. First of all, there’s a transportation cost, then there’s the cost of your time,” he said. “If you factor all of that in, I don’t think I would say it necessarily pays for most purchases.”
If you go, what are the rules?Canadians who have been in the U.S. for less than 24 hours legally have to pay duty and taxes on everything they bring back. After 24 hours, they’re allowed to bring back $200 worth of goods. That rises to $800 after 48 hours.
If you’re staying closer to home, are the best deals online or in-store?
“Quite often, you’ll find a better deal in-store because the product is there and they’re trying to clear it, whereas online you may find a pretty good deal more consistently but they may not be discounted quite as heavily,” Patterson said.
But consumers should also think about the time factor, he added. The time it takes to go to a retailer might not be worth the savings.
Why has Black Friday come to Canada?
“When the Canadian dollar, a few years ago, was at par or even above the value of the U.S. dollar, it made shopping in the States very attractive, so Canadian retailers responded by cutting prices,” Soroka said. “Now the Canadian dollar is not as strong, not as robust, but shoppers still have that expectation, and so long as there’s one retailer who’s prepared to undercut everybody else, you’ll find that the others will follow suit.”
The ability of Canadians to take advantage of sales in the U.S. is also a motivating factor, he said.
“More and more, we’re seeing almost a blurring of these shopping days or events,” Patterson said.
The number of sales days has risen, and instead of there being discounts on a single day, these discount periods have become sales weeks.
“We’re seeing more discounting with retailers. It’s happening more, it’s happening sooner and it’s happening more regularly,” Patterson said.
Quebecers are embracing Black Friday
Forty-three per cent of Quebecers plan to shop on Black Friday, according to a survey commissioned by the Conseil québécois du commerce de détail, up from 29 per cent in 2015.
Léopold Turgeon, the president and CEO of the CQCD, said he estimates that more than half of retailers will offer some discounts as part of the shopping event.
Consumers are now waiting for discounts before buying, he said. Holiday shopping in October is dropping, while it’s increasing in November.
While Turgeon said he’s not sure when exactly Black Friday came to Quebec, it has been growing rapidly over the past five years.