Canadians invade the U.S. for holiday bargains

Fri Nov 27, 2009 3:18pm EST
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By Scott Anderson

BUFFALO, New York (Reuters) - Big discounts and a weaker U.S. dollar lured Canadians across the border to join domestic shoppers fishing for Black Friday bargains.

Canada's holiday shopping season has no definitive starting point like the U.S. tradition of heading out the day after its Thanksgiving celebration. Often the big day for shopping bargains is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.

But with discounts of nearly 50 percent beckoning from across Niagara Falls, Canadian consumers passed up price cuts offered by their country's top retailers in pursuit of even bigger bargains two hours away.

At the car park for the Fashion Outlets mall near Buffalo, Ontario license plates were more numerous than those from New York state, including several tourist buses and one stretch limousine.

"The pricing is a lot better here than in Toronto," said Domenic Luciano, a mortgage broker who shops in America about once a month. "The markup is a lot higher in Canada than in the U.S. I feel gouged in Toronto."

Luciano said he was buying mostly clothes for himself such as jeans and suits.

Shoppers had lined up before doors opened up at midnight. But even at midday, queues to get into the Coach store were averaging a half an hour wait. In a number of the stores, including Juicy Couture, security guards regulated the flow of shoppers.

The Canadian currency was at C$1.061 to the U.S. dollar, or 94 U.S. cents, on Friday, compared with a year earlier when the exchange rate was hovering around C$1.23. But the outflow of shoppers comes at a price to Canada's economy, which is emerging from more than a year-long downturn.   Continued...

<p>Shoppers look through the aisles during a Black Friday sales event at a "Toys R Us" store in Falls Church, Virginia November 27, 2009. Americans headed to department stores in droves in the dead of night on Friday to kick off the holiday shopping season, though many said they had pared back how much they would spend on family members and on themselves. Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, is often the single busiest shopping day of the crucial holiday season, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of the retail industry's annual sales. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>