With Canadian retailers pushing a northern version of Black Friday and the poor exchange rate slowing the flood of shoppers crossing the border for deals, marketing lecturer Ann Stone of UBC’s Sauder School of Business discusses the Canadian version of the popular shopping event and why it may be on the wane.


Can Black Friday catch on in Canada?

Black Friday is “all-American," as it’s driven by consumers who have a day off after their Thanksgiving, who want to get out of the house after turkey dinners. Retailers found themselves in intense competition to attract those motivated to get a head start on holiday shopping, so price was the best way to entice them.

Canadians got drawn into Black Friday with cross-border shopping, so Canadian retailers had to react by dropping their own prices to keep shoppers north of the border. But things are changing – for one, the Canadian dollar is low so not many Canadians are making the trip across the border for Black Friday sales.

And a lot is changing about the mindset of shoppers everywhere. For many, “stuff” matters less – we’re less interested in the concept of “whoever has the most toys wins.” It’s not green, and Vancouverites in particular are known for their green mindset. Shoppers are also increasingly interested in buying local, a trend that’s finally moving from the agricultural focus of “grown here” and the production focus of “made here” to the potentially most important aspect: "sold here" by people in the community.

Could Black Friday be improved?

Retailers should offer not just good prices, but memorable experiences. On a day out with your friends or family, getting a great deal is nice but it isn’t why you’re out shopping. You’re out as part of a social occasion; otherwise you could just shop online during Cyber Monday.

No one wants to feel ripped off so pricing certainly matters; that said, what they want is an experience of shopping sprinkled with unexpected moments of what we marketers call “surprise and delight.” Retailers could offer a small token of appreciation, perhaps handed to the customer, along with the receipt. This could be a variety of things, such as a small chocolate, a thank you card, or a coupon or discount for a neighbouring business.

And the locale should be inviting. Many shopping locations are nightmarish: crammed with too much stuff, loud music, no place to walk or sit or rest on your journey. Shopping malls put kiosks where chairs and couches should be. Retailers think more is better, but that’s the exact opposite of consumer needs and makes for negative experiences.

What should consumers watch out for this weekend?

Consider – do you really need what you’re buying? Do you know what a “good" price is for this item? This often will require some good math, so bring a smartphone and a smart friend. Remember that size changes, buy-one-get-one-free, or other unusual sales are about making comparisons hard.  So do the math before you buy.

And remember to have fun. It should be about the day – the weekend – or the season and being with others.

Top image source: Flickr