Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Malls taking on Black Friday

City merchants plan big sales

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Winnipeggers can shop until they drop when Black Friday rolls around later this month.

A number of the city's regional shopping malls and some of their tenants are planning to open early on Nov. 23 -- 7 a.m. in the case of Kildonan Place Shopping Centre -- in a bid to get Winnipeggers to spend their shopping dollars here rather than scooting across the border for the annual U.S. Black Friday shopping frenzy.

Polo Park general manager Deborah Green said she expects many of the mall's stores to open at 8 a.m. instead of the usual 10 a.m. She also expects some of them to offer eye-popping deals.

"We've got some great deals lined up already, but we hope to get even more," she said, adding there will likely be lots of advertisements appearing in the days leading up to Nov. 23.

"The Americans (U.S.-based retail chains) are sort of leading the charge because of the successes they've had south of the border. But we're seeing some Canadian retailers getting involved, too."

The Friday of the U.S. Thanksgiving long weekend is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year south of the border. Much like Boxing Day in Canada, it's the day retailers there offer up some of their hottest deals of the year, particularly for big-ticket items such as big-screen TVs and appliances.

Since 2007, when the Canadian loonie staged its remarkable comeback, Canadians have been streaming across the border to snap up U.S. Black Friday bargains. In recent years, Canadian retailers have been fighting back in a big way with their own Black Friday specials. A local Retail Council of Canada spokesman said he expects more of the same this year.

"A number of retailers got fairly aggressive last year to try and keep customers shopping on this side of the border," Lanny McInnes said in an interview. "And I think last year kind of set the stage for what we anticipate we'll see this year."

McInnes said the cross-border shopping threat is even greater than last year because the loonie is still flying high and the federal government recently raised the duty-free limits on how much Canadians can bring back across the border -- $200 after 24 hours or more (from $50) and $800 after 48 hours or more (from $400).

"And there's still that lure of taking a little getaway at this time of year," he added.

Kildonan Place general manager Peter Havens said about a dozen of the mall's tenants plan to open at 7 a.m., which would be twice as many as last year. And like Polo Park, it's the U.S.-based retail chains leading the charge.

"But there are a few others also doing it. They're saying, 'I see my neighbours (in the mall) are opening, so we're going to open, too.' "

West 49 store manager Stephen Chesnut confirmed it will be offering Black Friday specials. But for competitive reasons, he can't disclose the details until a few days before the event.

Chesnut said he expects more tenants to jump on the bandwagon as the day draws near.

St. Vital Centre manager Cheryl Mazur said it's too soon to say how many of its tenants will open early. They have the option of opening as early as 7:30 a.m.

"There's usually only a handful of tenants that open that early," she added.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2012 B4

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