Nfld. & Labrador

Black Friday sales aren't always as they appear, says e-commerce business owner

It's Black Friday, which means deep price cuts for shoppers looking to save a little extra on holiday gifts for friends and family as December draws nearer. 

Shopping tips and buying local ahead of Black Friday

As Black Friday sales events kick off, there are a few things to look out for, says business owner Jay Mathur. (Sara Calnek/CBC)

If you're venturing into the world of Black Friday sales — whether online or in store — the owner of one e-commerce business in Port aux Basques says there are some things to be on the lookout for, as some deals aren't all they appear to be.

Jay Mathur says some retailers use limited quantity or "buy now" campaigns to keep people's shopping impulse high.

Some products, such as televisions, even have specific models that are rolled out during Black Friday events, he said, but may have fewer functions than other models. He said most lower-end models, especially in televisions, will be the ones on sale with dramatic price reductions. 

"Those TV models are actually very limited. They have a limited number of [outputs]. Maybe they'll only have one HDMI port, no ethernet port, it won't have any smart features, the processor may be very slow, it may not have a lot of memory," Mathur told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

"So the door-buster model that you're actually buying, it may actually be one of the worst TVs for sale."

Mathur said the fine print on products, especially in electronics, will tell shoppers everything they need to know, and people should balance that against the "non-holiday" model.

Most products sold online will have a reviews section, written by happy or disappointed shoppers, which should be used to help in making decisions, said Mathur.

Mathur says online reviews should help inform shopping decisions, but they should be wary that not all reviews are what they appear to be. (maradon 333 / Shutterstock)

But it's important to remember that some product reviews are compensated, he said, meaning the company paid for the review. 

"That doesn't mean that it's fake; it just means that the retailer provided the product for free or maybe gave some additional incentive, but consider maybe the reviews you're reading may not all be 100 per cent factual," he said. 

American tradition comes to Canada

Black Friday means deep price cuts for shoppers looking to save a little extra on holiday gifts for friends and family as December draws nearer. 

The annual savings event that has become a staple across the United States has quickly become a save-the-date for many Canadian consumers' calendars.

Tom Cooper, an associate professor in the faculty of business administration at Memorial University, said the event became popular first within border provinces for people who journeyed to the United States to save on gifts, well before the boom in online shopping. 

"Now it's almost become part of the culture whereby people start to prepare their Christmas shopping and start to think about, 'Is this a good time to go out? Is this a good time to get the best deals of the season?'" Cooper told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.   

Tom Cooper, an associate professor in the faculty of business administration at Memorial University, says small businesses are relying on the importance of the holiday season this year. (Mike Moore/CBC)

Cooper said the event has eclipsed Boxing Day sales.

Now, in the middle of a pandemic — and COVID-19 surges in pockets across Canada — Cooper said most shoppers will now hold out until Cyber Monday: a concept similar to Black Friday but with a focus on online shopping. 

Shopping local

Cooper said he would like to see a local Saturday event rather than Black Friday, where people flock to their local retail stores to buy gifts. 

For small businesses, especially after a year in which many have closed and many more have struggled due to the pandemic, Cooper said the holiday season is going to be important.

"The benefits stay in the community, the benefits stay locally, both in terms of jobs but also in terms of making this a better place to live," he said. 

"Although chains are great — and I'll still continue to shop at Sportchek and all those other great chains that provide really good products that you can't necessarily get locally — if there is a choice, then I think, once again, this is a great time to help local retailers," he said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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