Banking on Black Friday
Black Friday’s shadow is spreading.
Recognized in the United States as the unofficial kickoff to the Christmas retail season, the day after American Thanksgiving has become our southern neighbours’ busiest shopping day of the year. Canadian stores have taken note, with many now copying their U.S. counterparts by opening early and offering deep discounts.
Red Deer retailers are no exception. Many were advertising special hours and prices for today, including the Bay in Bower Place Shopping Centre. It was scheduled to open its doors at 7 a.m.
“We have probably a dozen tenants that are going to be open somewhere between 7 and 8,” said John Rooke, the mall’s general manager, on Thursday.
“I think it’s just one of those things that had a cachet in the States for many years, and it was only a matter of time before it came across the border here.”
Rooke said local interest in Black Friday has been led by stores with corporate connections to the U.S. Among these was Aéropostale, which Rooke believes was the only tenant in Bower mall to open early post-Thanksgiving last year.
“It was just amazing,” said store manager Terri-Jo Martin. “We did just as much on Black Friday as we did on Boxing Day.”
That prompted Aéropostale to advance its opening time from 8 a.m. last year to 7 a.m. today. Everything, except cosmetics and fragrances, is marked down 60 per cent; and customers receive a $30 gift for every $100 they spend.
At Parkland Mall, Tip Top Tailors also promoted Black Friday last year. Manager Allan Wilhelm admitted he wasn’t expecting much of a response when he put up the signs, but was rewarded with a huge customer turnout.
“We found it to be our biggest weekend of the year.”
This year, Tip Top is offering a minimum of 30 per cent off on its merchandise, with casual wear marked down 40 per cent and many items being sold on a two-for-one basis. The store was to open at 9 a.m. this morning, a half hour earlier than normal.
Wilhelm said he was so busy on Black Friday last year that he didn’t have a chance to see what other stores in Parkland Mall were doing.
Krista Dunstan, the mall’s marketing director, doesn’t know if any other retailers marked the date with their own promotions. But a number have jumped aboard the bandwagon this year.
“It seems like it’s growing in momentum,” she said, noting the prevalence of Black Friday ads this year.
These included promotions by the Gary Moe Auto Group, which was offering special deals at its Mazda, Hyundai and Volkswagen dealerships. Its “Black Friday Blowout” kicked off on Thursday and was scheduled to continue until Saturday.
General manager Dean Moe said auto dealers help fuel the Black Friday frenzy in the U.S.
“They’re big on it in the States, for sure.”
Dunstan believes local retailers are developing an appetite for this new sales initiative and expects their enthusiasm to grow.
“I think it’s safe to say that it’s not going away and it’s something that we will definitely look at being more involved with next year, from a campaign perspective.”
Martin is keen to see Black Friday grow in prominence here — provided it doesn’t get to the extremes that it has at some American stores.
“I hope we don’t do the whole midnight opening.”