Smaller-than-usual crowds descend on malls on Boxing Day, shoppers say

Shoppers filled stores Tuesday trying to get their hands on some Boxing Day sales, but many say the malls aren't as crowded as people take to their computers from the comfort of their own homes.

Online shopping booming across Canada but in-person still the biggest market

Shoppers crowded the Rideau Centre on Boxing Day to take advantage of various sales. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

Shoppers filled stores Tuesday trying to get their hands on some Boxing Day sales, but many say the malls don't seem as crowded as people take to shopping from the comfort of their own homes.

Boxing Day is still one of the busiest shopping days of the year as retailers mark down prices to attract customers on the day after Christmas. Many stores threw open their doors early to attract the keenest shoppers. Cars lined the roads around Bayshore Shopping Centre and Tanger Outlets in the city's west end as holiday shoppers tried to take advantage of sales.

A lineup of cars could be seen heading toward Tanger Outlets in Ottawa Tuesday afternoon. (Raphael Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

The Best Buy on Coventry Road in Ottawa's east end saw customers lining up two hours before it opened at 6 a.m., according to Sid Uppal, the store's general manager, adding he often sees more customers on Boxing Day than other times of the year, including Black Friday because people have Boxing Day off.

Online shopping booming, Retail Council says

Eric Arsenault stopped by a Best Buy to buy a new computer and says the store wasn't as busy as he expected. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

However, a number of shoppers believed the crowds weren't as big as other years.

"It's died down recently, past couple years it was like ridiculous," said Dany Dakdouki, who purchased a home theatre system for his new apartment. "I remember getting up at 5 a.m. to get something at Best Buy but now it's like a lot less intense."

He said online shopping is the reason behind the dwindling crowds.

I think in some cases you can get the same deal you get at the store online, so why would you go to the store?- Taewan Kim, who was shopping at the Rideau Centre on Boxing Day as part of a family tradition

"You just wake up in the morning, go on Amazon and you buy whatever you need or you just go [to] Best Buy.ca and get whatever you need."

Taewan Kim agreed. It's a family tradition for him and his wife to shop on Boxing Day because it's her birthday, but said he thinks the deals aren't as good as they used to be and he didn't notice as many lineups as in past years.

"I think in some cases you can get the same deal you get at the store online, so why would you go to the store?"

Eric Arsenault woke up early to buy a desktop computer in store, but only because he wanted to set it up the same day instead of waiting for it to be delivered.

"I think it's changing so rapidly nowadays," he said.

Online shopping is growing by the double digits, said Michael LeBlanc, a retail advisor with the Retail Council of Canada.

"More people are shopping online. They're staying at home being comfortable on a chilly day," he said, but added that in-person shopping is still the dominant way people make purchases. He attributed that staying power to "old-fashioned great customer service" and the fact malls have invested in the shopping experience..

Helping those in need

Instead of shopping Glad Omage and her son, Jesse, spent Boxing Day handing out gifts to those less fortunate. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

Glad Omage and her son, Jesse, braved the Rideau Centre, not to take advantage of the sales, but to spread some holiday cheer to those in need.

"We've got a lot this year and we just want to give [back] because we've been so grateful for what we've had," said Glad, who was handing out soaps, food and gift cards.

"Most of them are really happy and some even shed tears. It's really rewarding. I just feel it's the best way to spend my Boxing Day instead of getting those gifts that you don't need, give it to those that need it."

She said her family has been handing out gifts for the last three years to help teach her children about those who are less fortunate and may not have a roof over their heads or enough food to eat.