Bargain hunters brave long lines
Both store owners and buyers have strategies for making the best of the biggest shopping day of the year, writes SHAAMINI YOGARETNAM.
Ottawans joined millions of other Canadians expected to brave malls and big-box stores for Boxing Day sales on Wednesday, some having scouted deals beforehand but many looking to spend Christmas gift cards.
A survey conducted by the Bank of Montreal found nearly twothirds of Canadians planned to shop on the biggest shopping day.
Nearly 400 people were lined up outside the Future Shop on Merivale Road in advance of the store’s 6 a.m. opening. Early-rising employees inside the technology and electronics store began work before 4 a.m.
Damian McLaren, the store’s general manager, said Boxing Day discounts were still important to the retail industry even with the rush to adopt November’s Black Friday as a shopping institution this side of the U.S. border.
“At the tail end of November we saw a massive spike (in sales), which is great, but it’s not taking away from today. It’s absolutely the busiest day of the year,” he said while tossing his keys to an employee who managed to get his attention. More than 80 staff were scheduled to work throughout the day. On a typical Wednesday, maybe 15 employees would work.
Since most stores are closed on Christmas Day, that means retailers offering door-crashing deals need to prep on Christmas Eve to make sure things run as smoothly as they can on Boxing Day.
Customers armed with gift cards come in looking to take advantage of the sale and have the money go farther than it would if they waited until the new year to spend, McLaren said.
Employees wore their signature black hoodies to keep warm as the motion-operated sliding doors stayed open to accommodate a constant flow of customers.
Customers entering the store either picked up flyers to browse the deals or headed straight to a pre-scouted department for a specific deal. David Birch surveyed the Future Shop website looking for a particular television.
He bought that 55-inch Toshiba on Wednesday morning for $400 less than its original price after showing up at the store at 6:30 a.m. “I got really lucky and there was a bunch left,” Birch said. “I didn’t have to come three hours early, I’m happy about that.”
Others, like Paul Landry, balanced stacks of video games and DVDs as they browsed aisle by aisle.
Landry couldn’t sleep so he opted to get up early and spend a Christmas gift card on movies and video game controllers.
Right next to Future Shop on Merivale Road is Best Buy, owned by the same parent company, where employees offer similar discounts and similar products but don’t get commission.
Standing in front of the store with a boxed TV, a woman is stunned when a cab driver pulls up to ask how much she paid for it.
“$599, but I think we got the last one,” she shouted back.
At the Rideau Centre, the increased cash flow that only comes after Christmas Day was the driving shopping force for many.
The line to get inside Lululemon spanned three times the length of the front of the store.
Kaitlyn Hoey joined the line, marking its temporary end, with nearly 100 people in front of her.
A Christmas gift card meant she was on the hunt for leggings, but she hoped it would be a quick errand.
“Last year it took a really long time,” Hoey said.
Window displays throughout the mall advertised sales for 30, 40 and 50 per cent off items. Added staff and security greeted customers at every store entrance.
Many stores advertised weeklong sales that extended past Dec. 26.
That’s Corey Hackett’s plan, too. Co-owner of Top of the World, a non-chain store unique to Ottawa just a block away from the Rideau Centre, Hackett will offer deals all week.
Boxing Day isn’t a big-box or chain mentality, he said. Sales are just expected.
“Everybody does it,” Hackett said. “We always have, we always will.”
At Top of the World, which will celebrate its 20th year in business in 2013, all shoes were half off.
“It’s our No. 1 product grouping that we sell, and to offer them halfprice is a rarity and we only do it once a year,” Hackett said. “It’s what drives people to come in here today.”
The atmosphere at the skateboard, snowboard and youth culture clothing store is a departure from larger stores, but owners still had to hire security for the day and manage the number of people in the store at any one time.
“People like coming here because they get what they want and they can have a good time and hang out if they want,” Hackett said. “It’s a pretty mellow spot, except for today.” WATCH a video report of this story online at