Shoppers take advantage of Boxing Day deals at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Shoppers take advantage of Boxing Day deals at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Boxing Day’s shot to return to its ‘glory days’ stymied by lockdowns: Retail experts

The spending spree will likely be a ‘sad’ and ‘lacklustre’ shell of its usual self

Canadian retailers are expected to offer deep discounts this Boxing Day in a bid to entice shoppers to buy up leftover holiday and seasonal goods and raise enough cash to endure the latest round of pandemic restrictions.

Yet despite the rush of slashed prices and promotions already rolling out, industry watchers say the post-Christmas shopping spree will be subdued as Ontario’s new lockdown takes effect, pushing sales in the country’s most populated province almost entirely online.

“I think we’re going to see a ton of deals and some fire-sale prices,” says Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory.

“There is going to be so much excess inventory that they’re just trying to get rid of” she says. “They also need cash. It’s all about the balance sheet.”

Still, Efros, who served as interim CEO of U.S. fashion brand True Religion in 2019, says the spending spree will likely be a “sad” and “lacklustre” shell of its usual self.

Boxing Day, historically the country’s biggest sales event, is a holiday shopping bonanza that usually sees massive crowds descend on malls and main streets the day after Christmas in search of deals.

It has been increasingly overshadowed by Black Friday, which falls the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, as shoppers check gifts off holiday lists early.

A holiday retail report by Deloitte Canada says the American shopping event has become “an entrenched part of the Canadian shopping landscape” in just a few years. A JLL Canada holiday survey also found that 16 per cent of Canadians planned to seek out Boxing Day deals, compared to 29 per cent on Black Friday.

Amazon added another rival to Boxing Day this year when it moved its Prime Day to mid-October, pushing the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season even earlier.

Despite the increasing competition for holiday dollars, retail experts say there is a glimmer of hope that Boxing Day could regain some of its former prominence this year.

“Canadians weren’t able to cross the border into the U.S. for Black Friday to get some of those deeper discounts, so it could have been a great year for Canadian retailers to get back a little bit of the glory days of Boxing Day,” says Tandy Thomas, an associate professor in the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University.

“But all those plans have been tossed out the window.”

While widespread retail closures will be in effect in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba on Boxing Day, other provinces have strict capacity rules curtailing how many shoppers can be in stores, dissuading some from venturing out altogether.

The restrictions are expected to lead to a largely online Boxing Day, similar to Black Friday.

“The big retail story this entire year is about online shopping and that will continue on Boxing Day,” Thomas says. “The key is going to be for retailers to figure out how to attract customers to their websites and encourage them to spend.”

She says Boxing Day is one of the few times of the year when “consumers are primed to shop” and some people have been waiting for the sales event to spend money.

“We have a bit of a bimodal situation where some people are desperately struggling with incomes severely impacted by the pandemic while others have been accumulating savings and are looking to spend money,” Thomas says.

Still, retail observers say even shoppers who want to spend cash will expect steep markdowns and promotions before clicking to buy, and stores will likely step up and offer what consumers want in a bid to clear out stock.

“People are buying a lot of gift cards this year and not the traditional wrapped gift so there’s an excess of inventory and some pent-up demand,” says Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group.

“We’ll likely see a high level of redemption of gift cards on Boxing Day.”

Fashion retailers, among the hardest hit during the pandemic, will likely offer big sales on apparel and footwear, she says, noting that many stores began rolling out Boxing Day promotions in the week leading up to Christmas.

“I think we’ll see a Boxing Day rush, but I think sales will also be stretched out a bit,” Hutcheson says. “We’ll likely see another surge in deals when things reopen because retailers don’t want to get stuck with aged goods like holiday and seasonal apparel.”

She adds: “For retailers, it’s the balance of needing cash and also liquidating inventory that hasn’t sold.”

Other items in categories like sporting goods and hobbies or home cooking could be harder to come by with fewer sales on offer, Hutcheson notes.

“If you go into a Canadian Tire some of the sporting goods shelves are empty,” she says. “We could see some of the shortages we saw during the first wave of lockdowns.”

Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

HolidaysRetail

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Granfondo is going ahead in Penticton this September. (Western file photo)
BREAKING: Granfondo is a go in Penticton

Axel Merckx pushed the event to September in hopes of a ‘full Fondo experience’

A former client credits her 33 years of sobriety and happiness to all the care she received over the years at Pathways.
LETTER: Client credits 33 years of sobriety to Pathways staff

“Nothing could replace Pathways either in efficiency or in value for cost.”

Overhead lights have been installed at the Oliver skatepark so kids can enjoy the park longer during winter hours. (Argon photo)
Community lights up Oliver skatepark, calling it a ‘game changer’ for youth

Both the dog park and Small Wheels Skatepark have lighting now

Pathways
LETTER: Pathways chair says ‘wet houses’ can be part of solution but only with proper supports

Sherry Ure says we need to all come together and help our neighbours

Five Kelowna writers are featured in an anthology that launched in time for International Women's Day. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
International Women’s Day: Book exploring fears features Kelowna writers

The book has launched in time for International Women’s Day

Dawn Low first moved “upstairs” to the administrative department of the City of Revelstoke in 2009. (Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
120 years later, first female CAO appointed in Revelstoke

International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19, 1911, in Austria,… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
COSAR called to rescue missing skier near Big White

Fortunately, the skier found his way out of the area

Health Minister Adrian Dix, front, B.C. Premier John Horgan and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrive for a news conference about the provincial response to the coronavirus, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, March 6, 2020. Pandemic emergency measures have been in place for almost a year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. officials plead for patience as 1.7 million COVID-19 calls flood in

Vaccine registration for 90-plus seniors opened Monday

A West Kootenay man died in an avalanche on March 4 while snowmobiling near Mount Payne, which is indicted by the red flag. Illustration: Google Maps
B.C. father of 3 dead after avalanche in West Kootenay

The man was snowmobiling with a group when incident occurred March 4

YouTube.
LETTER: Stop torture of horses

Summerland woman calls for the end of shipping of live horses to Japan

A group of men pose for a photo at the Griffin Lake internment camp. (Submitted)
Volunteers wanted to help commemorate internment camps in Shuswap

There were six camps along the Highway 1 cooridor between Sicamous and Revelstoke.

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Most Read