Black Friday Catching On, Distributors Say

Black Friday crowdsOver the years, the U.S. tradition of Black Friday – a period of shopping insanity that gets kicked off the day after American Thanksgiving with jaw-dropping, fellow-shopper-trampling savings – has slowly picked up steam in Canada.

For the latter part of the ‘00s, it seemed like it was a lot of push from retailers, but not much pull behind it. Try as they might to push consumers to abandon their post-Christmas Day trips to the mall in favor of spending that much sought-after disposable income a month earlier, they seemed to gain little traction.

But that has changed significantly in recent years. This year, a Bank of Montreal survey indicated that some 47 percent of Canadians took advantage of Canadian Black Friday sales. That’s in addition to the 14 percent who crossed the border for their chance to stand in line and hand over stacks of greenbacks for deeply discounted flatscreen TVs and other doorcrasher specials.

At the Ingram Micro Experience event in early December, Lang Moffatt, who heads up the distributors logistics business, said that Black Friday is now on par with Boxing Day in terms of total volume of orders shipped on behalf of retailers and etailers.

D&H Canada has been pushing on the idea of Black Friday since 2010, and general manager Greg Tobin said it’s an idea that’s catching on. “Every year there’s more and more awareness,” he said.

And every year, that awareness gets more proactive. It started with last-minute decisions to offer some specials, but now, buyers at retail and e-tail are planning months in advance and Black Friday has become much more strategic. The distributor is reporting significantly more load-in offers from its Canadian customers this year. And even barring those load-in orders, Black Friday has made an impact on D&H’s business in Canada. This year, Tobin said D&H Canada’s business was up 41 percent in terms of invoices, 43 percent in terms of units sold, and 50 percent in terms of revenue over last year’s Black Friday. Many of the biggest areas of success speak to the consumer nation of holiday gift-buying – content streaming devices and cameras and other digital imaging options chief among them. But Tobin said that system component upgrades are also on the rise.

As we head into the new year, the second part of this retail story will be told. If Black Friday is gaining, does that mean that the traditional Canadian Boxing Day (and more recently, Boxing Week and seemingly Boxing Month) sales are on the decline? It’s too early to tell for sure, but Tobin said he believes it’s inevitable, at least to a degree.

“Whether you pull it forward or not, or whatever else you do, there’s only a certain amount of disposable income out there,” he said.