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The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

You think you’re so smart, Un­cle Sam? Well, Cana­dian Tire has news for you.

The Cana­dian re­tailer sees your Black Fri­day and raises you a Red Thurs­day.

That’s how far the re­cently adopted Amer­i­can tra­di­tion has come in Canada.

Last Fri­day was Black Fri­day, the day af­ter the U.S. Thanks­giv­ing. It’s when Christ­mas shop­ping is sup­posed to be­gin in earnest. And Christ­mas means re­tail­ers with sag­ging bot­tom lines fi­nally get back in the black - hence the name.

Cana­dian Tire’s mar­ket­ing idea was a mas­ter stroke; even the colours - black and red - match its logo. And it’s not some­thing U.S. re­tail­ers can steal back, since that par­tic­u­lar Thurs­day will al­ways be a hol­i­day.

While it’s only a re­cent phe­nom­e­non here, Black Fri­day is a huge day south of the border. Shop­pers mob the malls as re­tail­ers of­fer deep dis­counts. The sales usu­ally last through the week­end, end­ing with Cy­ber Mon­day, a mar­ket­ing ploy dreamed up by the elec­tron­ics in­dus­try.

Ac­cord­ing to Maclean’s mag­a­zine’s Chris Soren­son, more than half of all Cana­di­ans - 19.5 mil­lion peo­ple - plan to take ad­van­tage of the sales.

And a re­cent IPG Me­dia­brands sur­vey sug­gests 1.2 mil­lion Cana­di­ans even planned to take a sick day last Fri­day to go shop­ping. (Let’s hope their bosses aren’t read­ing this.)

It’s not clear, though, how many would have mosied out to the malls over the week­end de­spite the dis­counts. And that’s where Black Fri­day may not quite live up to its name.

The prob­lem, Soren­son writes, is that stores feel pres­sured to par­tic­i­pate in the dis­count frenzy, even though it comes at a time of year where most peo­ple would be out shop­ping any­way. So they end up sell­ing off a mound of mer­chan­dise with­out making near the profit they might have had cus­tomer expectations not been raised.

Soren­son cites a re­cent study by Sta­tis­tics Canada which found the share of an­nual re­tail sales in Novem­ber only nudged up marginally - to 8.5 per cent from 8.4 per cent - since Black Fri­day first made an ap­pear­ance on the Cana­dian shop­ping scene in 2007.

“It’s a zero-sum game,” Jim Danahy, CEO of Cus­tomer Lab, told Maclean’s.

And it’s the kind of game where big­ger re­tail­ers have an ad­van­tage. They’re used to high vol­ume sales any­way, and have room to make the equa­tion work for them.

Smaller busi­nesses are less able to keep up. It’s not a new phe­nom­e­non, but it’s one that’s es­pe­cially felt this time of year.

There might be no bet­ter time to tick those names off your Christ­mas list.

Just don’t be sur­prised if smaller re­tail­ers don’t ap­pear to be quite as in­fused with the Christ­mas spirit.

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