TORONTO -- Black Friday looks to be bigger in Canada this year as more retailers try to keep consumers closer to home on the most important shopping day of the year in the United States.
One of the country's largest shopping mall operators, Cadillac Fairview, has responded to retailer requests by opening 21 properties early today so it can lure customers who might be tempted to cross the border in search of deep discounts on the day after U.S. Thanksgiving.
"It's a fun way for us to kick off the holiday shopping season," marketing director Wendy Greenwood said of the company's decision to open properties early for the second year in a row.
"Consumers can shop locally and still get great deals without having to go south of the border."
She said consumers can expect to see door crashers and discounts of up to 50 per cent at its stores. Last year, when the company tested the early hours for the first time, it resulted in a 22 per cent spike in traffic.
This year, Cadillac Fairview's Winnipeg mall, Polo Park, will open at 7 a.m. today, while other properties across the country will welcome customers through the doors at either 7 a.m. or 8 a.m.
In the U.S., Black Friday marks the start of the crucial holiday shopping season -- an opportunity for retailers to push merchandise out the door and begin to turn a profit, or head into the black.
Although there likely won't be the same number of overnight lineups or customers stampeding into stores for midnight madness deals in Canada as in the U.S., the popularity of Black Friday is growing as retailers continue to feel the squeeze on their bottom line from American competitors.
Retailers such as Amazon.ca and Sears Canada have responded with deals that include sales of up to 70 per cent off on everything from television sets, cameras and clothing to kitchen appliances.
And a recent poll released by the Bank of Montreal found Canadian shoppers are hungry to shop on Black Friday.
Forty-seven per cent of Canadians it surveyed planned on shopping this year -- up from 41 per cent last year -- with each shopper expecting to spend an average of $292.
Another poll from UPS Canada also found the number of Canadians who plan on crossing the border for Black Friday has increased, to 14 per cent this year from six per cent in 2011.
"It's a cultural leakage from one side to the other," said Kelly Askew, managing director of retail management consulting for Accenture Canada.
"If Canadian retailers ignore it, it will be to their detriment if they don't stop consumers from going across the border."
The nostalgia associated with Black Friday in the U.S. does not exist in Canada as consumers here are more used to seeing big discounts on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.
-- The Canadian Press