Montreal

Dozens camp overnight outside downtown shops, itching to jump on Black Friday sales

Despite the cold weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, Montrealers' appetite for deals is still there, as several dozen people could be seen lining up outside a downtown shop Friday morning, with some saying they spent the night camped outside.

Black Friday sales could make or break many small shops, says business group

Black Friday attracted hoards of shoppers in some Montreal stores, despite the pandemic. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Despite the cold weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, Montrealers' appetite for deals is still there, as several dozen people could be seen lining up outside a downtown shop Friday morning, with some saying they spent the night camped outside.

"I've been here since 6:30 p.m. yesterday," said Jonah Ashcar. "I figured it'd be a fun experience, I'm here with a few of my friends. I've never been out here camping outside a store."

Reeling businesses in Quebec are certainly hoping that enthusiasm Black Friday sales can provide them with a much needed lifeline.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has been encouraging people to shop local to help revive struggling commercial arteries,  and some groups say today's sales, or lack thereof, could make or break small businesses.

"Retailers have been hit hard by this pandemic, right now majority of them are below normal sales," said Francois Vincent, the vice-president of the Quebec branch of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

"So, all dollars spent by Canadians can make a difference."

The Fairview shopping mall in Pointe-Claire is expecting sales to surge during Black Friday, judging by the number of shoppers who stopped by Thursday, hoping to get head start on the festivities. 

"It has become in recent years the most important shopping day of the year, on par or even surpassing Boxing Day," said Laurent Bruneau, the mall's general manager. "So for us, It's really kicking off the busy holiday season.

But Bruneau also stressed the need to help limit the spread of the virus, by extending opening hours, and adding a drive-in service for order pick-ups.

Some Black Friday shoppers in Montreal say they had been camping outside since Thursday evening. (Franca Mignacca/CBC)

In spite of the city's plea to Montreal to go out and support businesses, there are concerns over how people can shop local, en masse, and do so safely during a pandemic. Some experts believe the best way to take part in Black Friday festivities is to shop online. 

"You want to stimulate those businesses, you want people to be happier than they are now, you want them to have them some more freedoms, but that may come at a cost," said Simon Bacon, a professor in behavioural medicine at Concordia University.

With files from Franca Mignacca, Chloe Ranaldi

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