Nanaimo’s retailers hope to boot Christmas season shopping into high gear by flooding the market with sales events this weekend.

Nanaimo’s retailers hope to boot Christmas season shopping into high gear by flooding the market with sales events this weekend.

Retailers ready for Black Friday bargain hunters

NANAIMO – Black Friday and Boxing Day bookend Christmas retail season to bolster retailers' end of year bottom line.

An American shopping tradition that has spread north of the border will have Canadian shoppers stampeding toward sales items.

Black Friday (Nov. 28) happens the Friday after the U.S. Thanksgiving – the last Thursday of November – and kicks off the Christmas shopping season for major U.S. and Canadian retailers.

The term Black Friday originated in Philadelphia as a metaphor for unusually heavy foot and vehicle traffic in the city the Friday after Thanksgiving. By the 1960s, Black Friday became the day that kicked off the profitable Christmas shopping season when retailers operated in the black after losing money or ‘operating in the red’ the rest of the year.

“It’s representing, basically, the biggest period of the year,” said Stephan Pilon, general manager of the Nanaimo Canadian Tire store. “It used to be Boxing Day, but now it’s not. It’s basically Black Friday.”

Canadian Tire was among the first Canadian retail chains to start Black Friday sales.

Pilon said customers line up at the doors to snatch up heavily discounted items.

Future Shop claims bragging rights as Canada’s first retailer to get big into Black Friday, according to Elliott Chun, company spokesman, who said it’s now Future Shop’s second busiest day of the year. The company’s 136 Canadian stores extend the sale over the weekend into Cyber Monday, which also originated in the U.S., for online sales.

Boxing Day and the week following remain the company’s busiest days for traffic and sales.

“We were actually the first national retailer, as Future Shop, to offer a Black Friday sale back in 2009,” Chun said. “We experimented with it just because we knew people were aware of it and with most of our population living so close to the border we wanted to be a part of that phenomenon in the States and see if there was any stickiness in Canada.”

Country Club Centre’s other retailers will hold sales too, but the mall is offering free gift wrapping, complimentary tea and gifts with Country Club gift card purchases of $50 or more and free photos with Santa  from 4-7 p.m., a visit with children’s character Caillou, and a performance by the Vancouver Island Symphony Grade 5 choir.

Target Canada adds sale days in the week leading up to Nov. 28. Emily Vear, Target spokeswoman, wouldn’t disclose sale details, but said in an e-mail some items would be discounted by up to 90 per cent.

Nanaimo North Town Centre marketing director, Cheryl Campbell, said the shopping centre will give away $250 in gift cards in a Black Friday draw, but the Festival of Trees fundraiser for B.C. Children’s Hospital was the mall’s Christmas season kickoff.

Woodgrove Centre has supported its retail tenants with Black Friday promotions since 2011, said Mark Fenwick, Woodgrove general manager. This year the mall will give away Woodgrove gift cards, worth $10 to $500, to the first 300 customers and a chance to win a $25,000 shopping spree for Woodgrove’s Black Friday One Day Wonder Sale.

“We’re expecting a few hundred people first thing in the morning – that’s what we experienced last year,” Fenwick said. “Black Friday and the weekend is becoming more important over the last two or three years.”

Al Ehrenberg, owner of Gone Fishin’ sporting goods stores, said his store holds Black Friday sales with online and in-store specials. It’s a good kickoff for the Christmas season, but Boxing Day is “by far bigger in Canada,” he said.

“Black Friday is an American thing, but it is kind of a good start to get people moving on Christmas shopping … [Americans’] Christmas season depends on it; ours certainly doesn’t, but it’s worthwhile participating in.”