Greater Victoria consumers embracing Black Friday

Greater Victoria consumers are well immersed in Black Friday, the day Americans have traditionally lined up for retail bargains to kick off the Christmas shopping season.

Since Canadian retailers picked up on the marketing craze a decade ago, consumers north of the border are primed to make a purchase, said Stephen Tax, a marketing professor with the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business. “When people go out for Black Friday, they are going to buy, whereas a lot of other times they are going to have a look around,” Tax said Tuesday.

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With 30 days to Christmas, Tax said consumers are fuelled by the crush of Black Friday advertising, claiming slashed prices and scarcity of certain offers.

Stores often open early and use incentives to attract customers.

Mayfair Shopping Centre is offering a “spin to win” gift card event and the downtown Bay Centre is giving Earls restaurant gift cards to the first 100 shoppers.

Black Friday is the first Friday after U.S. Thanksgiving. It’s this Friday and is followed by Cyber Monday, promoted by online retailers as a day of exceptional bargains.

“My guess is the Boxing Day sales are probably a little bit stronger in terms of the discount offered, but the selection may well be less,” Tax said.

Some local stores even stage pre-Black Friday events. Ocean River Sports is rolling out discounts on what it calls White Thursday this week.

In the highly competitive retail market “it’s always the fight to be first,” Tax said. “Shoppers may see this as an opportunity to jump in on the bargains early while the selection is good.”

Big Black Friday discounts get customers through the door, but retailers are really hoping they will stick around and buy some higher-margin products, Tax said.

Canadian retailers embracing Black Friday are also responding to cross-border shopping, Tax said, as they hope consumers will spend their holiday dollars at home rather than Washington state.

Clipper Vacations has added extra sailings starting Thursday between Victoria and Seattle for those who want to shop, visit family or take in sports events.

Some members of Think Local First Victoria take part in Black Friday, while others don’t bother, said president Gayle Robinson, owner of Robinson’s Outdoor Store downtown.

Think Local First is encouraging consumers to consider the benefit of supporting local businesses.

“It’s about sustainability. It’s about the future of Victoria,” Robinson said.

The non-profit organization is offering prizes during Think Local First Week, starting Dec. 1.

Capital Iron is promoting its three-day sale starting Friday with a touch of humour, urging customers to turn out for “Mike Black Friday — The Only True Black Friday.” Black is the president of the long-standing business, with stores in Victoria, Sidney and the West Shore.

When it comes to parting with money, consumers appear to be taking a more frugal approach to this holiday season, according to a survey by BMO Financial Group. The typical Canadian is planning to spend $1,517, down from $1,810 in 2013, BMO said.

“With slower job growth this year, and many new jobs being part-time positions, Canadians are facing weaker income growth heading into the holiday season,” said Sal Guatieri, senior economist with BMO Capital Markets.

“Recent stock market volatility and elevated household debt could also dampen sales.””

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