“It started initially with a desire from Canadians to shop pre-Christmas, and that desire was accelerated when the dollar was at par [with the U.S. dollar],” said LeBlanc.
Some retailers, he explained, started offering Black Friday sales in an attempt to keep consumer dollars from flowing across the border. While the exchange rate has not been as enticing in the last few years, the tradition has staying power because it acts as a convenient starting pistol for spending.
“It gives retailers … something that they lacked in years past, which was this kick-off to the holiday season,” he said.
The fact that Black Friday isn’t tied to a traditional holiday in Canada, like it is in the United States, doesn’t seem to deter shoppers — but it does change the nature of the event.
“Its character, of course, is different here because … most Canadians are at work. That’s why [online shopping] is … more important in some ways in Canada for that reason today than it is in the U.S.”
While it appears that Black Friday may have delivered a knock-out punch to Boxing Day, neither occasion is the biggest shopping day of the year. LeBlanc says that always happens in one of the days before Christmas.
“This year, I would say [it’s] going to be Saturday [December 22nd], because what happens is you both have last minute gift-buying but also you’ve got food, beverage for holiday entertaining.”
The once-uniquely American shopping tradition of Black Friday is now bigger in Canada than Boxing Day.
That’s according to the Retail Council of Canada’s (RCC) annual Holiday Shopping Survey, which showed that 40 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to open their wallets on the day after American Thanksgiving compared to the 35 per cent who plan to shop on the day after Christmas.
RCC senior retail advisor Michael LeBlanc says it’s been about a decade in the making.