Despite recent challenges faced by Canada's retail sector, analysts have a rosy outlook for the looming holiday shopping season – particularly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Rob Cameron, chief product and marketing officer of processing payments firm Moneris, said there has been an increase in sales on both days for the last four years.
Despite the high-profile departure of U.S. discount chain Target from Canada, along with the closures of Mexx, Boutique Jacob and Smart Set, consumers continue to spend. Cameron said retail sales are up around six per cent this year.
"I think this Black Friday ... we would anticipate it being a larger increase than last year, so we tell retailers to be ready for more sales," said Cameron.
He added that e-commerce retailers are also expecting strong sales and experts predict a surge in online transactions.
"We expect Cyber Monday to again be a double-digit increase year over year."
An online survey conducted this fall by IPG Mediabrands revealed that 68 per cent of respondents said they would shop at stores in Canada on Black Friday, while only 15 per cent said they planned to shop at U.S. stores – a 37 per cent decline compared to a previous survey.
The poll of more than 1,000 Canadians also revealed 68 per cent planned to shop online through Canadian websites on Cyber Monday, while 42 per cent said they'd do so through U.S. sites – a decrease of 18 per cent.
Respondents said they plan on spending, on average, $332 per person on Black Friday, said Loraine Cordery, insights manager at IPG Mediabrands. Clothing and accessories were the top category, followed by technology and home electronics, books, music and DVDs, and computer hardware or software, she added.
The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.
"Beforehand, Boxing Day was a big sales day. But now, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are becoming just as important and a big part of this holiday shopping period," said Cordery.
The survey also revealed that about one-quarter of the respondents believed deals in Canada are just as good as those in the U.S., compared to 14 per cent in a similar survey last year, she noted.
The bargain bonanza events have been longtime hallmarks of the U.S. shopping calendar, but have increasingly been adopted by homegrown retailers in a bid to keep consumers from flocking south to spend on deals.
"When the dollar was at par and Canadian retailers were losing sales to the U.S. because of all of this excitement of Black Friday, the two things combined meant Canadian retailers said: 'Enough is enough,"' said Michael LeBlanc, senior vice-president of marketing and digital at the Retail Council of Canada.
"Retailers don't necessarily create demand. They follow it. In other words, they reflect the consumer. And the consumer was clearly interested in Black Friday-Cyber Monday excitement."