Black Friday, Cyber Monday gaining steam in Canada

Black FridayThus far, Canadian shoppers have been spared the kind of madness (and accompanying bargains) that characterize the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping experience in the United States. But there are signs that’s changing as the successful promotions Stateside start to make their way into the north of the border.

This year, with the Canadian dollar very high and people still stinging from two of the worst economic years in recent history, the urge for retailers to do something to combat that steady flow of shoppers and their dollars across the U.S. border is particularly high. Over the weekend, major retailers including Sears and Walmart offered “cross-border pricing” as part of their bid to keep stores, as opposed to U.S. Customs lineups, packed.

While Canadians have historically waited until the end of the holidays to get the biggest deals, the success and hype around Black Friday in the U.S. has seen many retailers and e-tailers copying that. It’s a slow but steady trend that distributor D&H Canada has seen gaining steam over the last three years.

“This is the third year we’ve definitely seen it – the first year, there was very little activity, last year a little more, and this year, considerably more,” said Greg Tobin, general manager of D&H Canada. “Canada is definitely still starting to see the big specials.”

It’s a growing trend, but not one that’s going to supplant Boxing Day (or increasingly Boxing Week) as the big sales opportunity for some time, Tobin suggested. “It will be several years before that happens, but the trend and direction are definitely there,” he said.

Nor is it an opportunity that’s nearly as large as it is in the United States, where Tobin said D&H Canada’s parent company has more than 300 specials along the way. Still, the distributor is working with its partners, both manufacturers and retailers, to take on additional inventory and make sure the hot button items are readily available to retailers both over the last weekend and up to Boxing Week. D&H is also taking an active role in putting together exclusive specials with many of its top retail customers, ensuring that each has “areas of differentiation” for its Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Week specials.

Elsewhere in distribution, Ingram Micro says that it believes that this year it will ship over six million products per week across North America this holiday rush, an increase of two million shipments per week compared to last year. The distributor said it has added nearly 3,000 temporary positions across North America to deal with the holiday rush, including 200 in Canada – 150 at its Mississauga, Ont. headquarters and 50 in Vancouver.

In a statement, Terry Tysseland, senior vice president of operations and supply chain for North America at Ingram, said the company expected to set a single-day record last Saturday, anticipating it will ship 400,000 orders – nearly double its busiest day last year.

So what are the distributors expecting to see moving this year? Tobin said that big-ticket items are not as popular as they were a few years ago, especially due to economic concerns. But some electronic and tech toys still remain hot sellers, including GPS devices, digital camera and picture frames, and even new tablets. Tobin said to keep an eye on the value-priced Coby Kyros MID7015 tablet in particular, an Android-based seven-inch tablet that undercuts the price of the über-popular iPad by a couple of hundred dollars.

Over at Ingram, they’re expecting a rush on consumer electronic items, including HDTVs, PCs and tablets, e-book readers, peripherals, GPS devices, cameras, camcorders, digital frames and video game systems and software.

In other words, things are going to be pretty busy for disties with retail business over the next month.

And hey… why limit the shopping madness to just a few days? With retailers hungry to cash in on a holiday buying rush that typically makes or breaks their years, there’s built-in incentive to expand marketing of late-November-and-December sales. Consider if you will e-tailer, which has decided to extend its virtual doorcrashers for a day, adding specials for not only Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also Encore Tuesday.  The e-tailer is also extending its return period from 30 days to 60. You know, just in case mom really didn’t want a new motherboard under the tree after all.