Despite Canadian retailers’ efforts to cash in on the U.S. shopping craze of Black Friday, Canadians’ enthusiasm for the sales event is low.
According to a new survey by Mintel, just 12% of Canadians plan to buy the bulk of their holiday gifts on Black Friday. That’s much lower than the 25% of U.S. shoppers who plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping on Black Friday, an American tradition that takes place the day after Thanksgiving and sees retailers offering big discounts in the lead-up to Christmas.
Only 5% of Canadians plan to shop on Cyber Monday—the online version of Black Friday—compared to 8% of Americans.
Part of the reason is the relative newness of these sales events in Canada, having only been introduced in 2008, said Carol Wong-Li, senior analyst, lifestyles and leisure at Mintel. “I also think some people might be holding out for a better deal on Boxing Day. They think, ‘why would I buy it now when it will be discounted [even more] later?’ [Canadians] are used to lining up for those Boxing Day sales.”
To drive more traffic to earlier sales events, Wong-Li said retailers have to differentiate their Boxing Day sales from their Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. “You have to reassure consumers that maybe not the same items will be on sale or they’re not going to get a better deal [on Boxing Day],” she said. “Retailers are going to have to find a way to differentiate [Black Friday and Cyber Monday] as a unique shopping experience.”
So, when are Canadians doing the bulk of their holiday shopping? According to the survey, 41% of respondents said they plan to do the majority of their shopping throughout the year rather than all at once, while 37% said they plan to shop a week or two before specific holidays. Consumers without children at home are more inclined to do the majority of their shopping throughout the year (44% versus 34% of parents with kids at home).
Overall, 87% of Canadians shopped for holiday items in 2014, including gifts, decorations, seasonal candy and food, greeting cards and other items. Most are shopping for Christmas (83%), followed by Thanksgiving (31%), New Year’s Eve (26%), Chinese New Year (6%) and Hanukkah (2%). In this year’s survey, 90% of respondents said they plan to give gifts during the holidays.
PARENTS DRIVING ONLINE HOLIDAY SHOPPING
The majority of Canadians (93%) plan to purchase at least some gifts in-store, while 81% will also shop for gifts online. Parents are powering the online shopping charge, according to Mintel, with 59% of parents planning to make at least half of their holiday purchases online.
Parents (25%) are much more likely than those without children at home (13%) to research items in-store, then buy them online. Furthermore, parents (36%) are more likely than those with no children at home (33%) to research items online and wait to see which items are on sale in-store before purchasing.
Canadian parents are also twice as likely as consumers without children at home to do the bulk of their shopping on Black Friday (18% versus 9%).
Nearly three in 10 (29%) Canadians who are doing holiday shopping plan to take advantage of sales on big-ticket items, such as electronics or furniture, including 35% of parents with children under 18 at home.
BUYING ON A BUDGET
Nearly half (45%) of holiday shoppers agree that buying the “right” items for recipients, regardless of the cost, is the most important factor when holiday shopping. However, 30% said buying items that fit into their overall holiday budget is most important.
To stay within their budget while still finding the perfect gift, the majority of consumers (55%) pay attention to ads promoting in-store sales, while 47% actively seek out online ads. Additionally, 44% of holiday shoppers rely on coupons and discounts, with 40% reporting they use social media to learn about discounts.
“With the dollar being so low, fewer people are going to be buying things from U.S., but at the same time, things here are more expensive because import costs are higher,” said Wong-Li. “So I think people are going to be looking more for sales. And a big part of buying online is being able to compare prices online easily and looking out for sales.”
Retailers can also add value by providing a more personalized shopping experience, added Wong-Li. For example, last year Walmart launched a traveling holiday store that allowed customers to try out the hottest toys.
Visitors were also served hot chocolate and cookies and had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a 30-foot tall elf. Shoppers could also have their purchases shipped to their homes at no charge.
“[Initiatives] like this will make a difference, where people will feel they can at least enjoy themselves while they’re shopping,” said Wong-Li.
As for this season’s hottest gift, shoppers have to look no further than the checkout counter. Fifty-nine percent of Canadian adults said they would like to receive gift cards this holiday season, and 62% said they’re likely to buy gift cards as a gift for others.
Canadian adults would also like to receive clothing and footwear (42%), electronics 36%), alcoholic beverages (28%) and jewellery and accessories (26%).