Black Friday barely shifts Canadian shopping habits

Canadian retailers are putting a lot of effort into promoting Black Friday, but according to Statistics Canada, shoppers aren't likely to have shifted their spending habits.

A few sectors, such as electronics, get a boost, but December is still when we spend

Statistics Canada says Canadians may be buying winter clothing earlier and also electronics, but otherwise, Black Friday has done little to shift spending habits. (Melissa Key/Goldsboro News-Argus/Associated Press)

Canadian retailers are putting a lot of effort into promoting Black Friday, but according to Statistics Canada, shoppers aren't likely to have shifted their spending habits.

Retailers are extending shopping hours and offering discounts for Black Friday, the day after American Thanksgiving, and a traditional work day for most Canadians, but only a few retailers are expected to benefit.

When Statistics Canada looked at retail spending in November, it found the share of annual retail sales in the month edged up only slightly from 2006 to 2014, from 8.4 per cent to 8.5 per cent.

December remains the busiest shopping month in Canada, though its share of overall sales has declined in that eight years from 9.9 per cent to 9.3 per cent.

Canadians have traditionally expected the best sale prices on Boxing Day or the week after Christmas.

Electronics shopping shifts

However, a few retail sectors may be winning a larger share of the shopping dollar on Black Friday, Statistics Canada found. 

Spending on electronics and appliances, clothing and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores has grown in November.

"The timing of new product releases related to toys, games and hobby supplies (such as electronic games) have increased the portion of total annual retail sales for November," Statistics Canada said.

Clothing and accessories sales, such as winter coats and hats and gloves, traditionally pick up in November because that's when winter cold sets in in most of the country, the researchers found.

Black Friday promotions do seem to be aiming more at electronics and appliances, Statistics Canada concluded. Sales of computer hardware and software as well as telephone and home office electronics, which are often given as gifts, has picked up in November.

December's share of annual sales at electronics and appliance stores decreased from 16.1 per cent in 2006 to 14.5 per cent in 2014, while November's share increased from 8.9 per cent to 10.1 per cent.

Spending like Scrooge

The study comes the same day that the Conference Board of Canada, which regularly monitors the mood of Canadian consumers, is predicting a Scrooge-like Christmas for many retailers.

It said retail sales have fallen so far this year compared to 2014, as Canadians juggle high debt loads and the impact of a low dollar, which makes imports more expensive.

Weak economic growth, especially in the oil-producing provinces, may factor in this year's spending, the economic think-tank says.

"This means that for some, consumers may still look like Scrooges through the holiday season and into 2016," researcher Michael Burt said.

The exception may be retailers who are winning over consumers with e-commerce, one of the fastest growing areas of retail, he said.

"Unfortunately for retailers, many of the trends that have negatively impacted the industry this year — including weaker economic growth, high consumer debt burdens, and the weaker dollar — are not going away any time soon," Burt said.


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