Canadian retailers adopt Black Friday to stem U.S. tide

Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:23pm EST
 
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By Allison Martell

TORONTO (Reuters) - The company that owns Canada's highest-traffic mall knows many of its customers work on Black Friday - that's why Toronto's downtown Eaton Centre is opening at 6 a.m.

Tough competition and sluggish growth have spurred Canadian retailers to look for novel ways to defend market share, and many are opting to import U.S.-style Black Friday sales, even though Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving in October and the year's biggest sales traditionally come after Christmas.

A recent report from Deloitte forecast an anemic 1 to 2 percent retail sales growth in Canada this holiday season, and noted that Canadian retailers will have to compete with online merchants and with U.S. retailers, both those south of the border and those that have moved north.

No one thinks the Black Friday trend will whip up crowds on par with those in the United States, but most major retailers are planning some kind of sale.

Best Buy Co Inc is branding its Canadian promotions "Black Friday" for the first time, joining early adopters Sears Canada Inc and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Commercial real estate heavyweight Cadillac Fairview, which owns and operates Toronto's Eaton Centre, is also opening nine of its other Ontario shopping centers early.

"What we really wanted to do was show retailers how we can work together to embrace the phenomenon," said Meredith Vlitas, senior marketing director at the Eaton Centre.

Last year, there were occasional early morning line-ups as about half of the Eaton Centre's outlets advertised weekend or one-day sales, but certainly no need for crowd control.

Ran Ravitz, general manager of Yellow Media Inc's discount tracking site Red Flag Deals, said Black Friday started to gain traction in Canada in 2009, and nearly all major retailers joined in last year.   Continued...