Thursday, November 21, 2013

It is Cheaper to Shop in the U.S. for Black Friday?

Are you thinking about shopping in the U.S. for Black Friday? I bet you're wondering if you could get your Christmas shopping done a little cheaper, right? You're not alone. Canadians have been making annual treks to the States to score extra savings for decades. But is it worth it anymore?

First of all, let's answer the question: When IS Black Friday this year? Later than usual actually, with the big day falling on November 29th, 2013 (less than a month before Christmas!) Black Friday typically involves brick-and-mortar locations, asking shoppers to come and experience the big deals in person. Cyber Monday, the day online retailers offer some of their lowest prices of the year too, falls on December 2nd.  

With Cyber Monday being offered to Canadian shoppers by both Canadian and U.S. retailers, do you even need to leave home to enjoy these savings? Do you need to spend the time driving across the border and back and waiting in hour-long lineups over the Niagara River? Do you need to waste the gas money? Do you need to deal with crowds that have a history of injuring their fellow shoppers? Do you need to deal with the nervousness of what you're going to tell the border security guard you did (or didn't) buy? The short answer is: no.

Tech Toy Gifts at The Bay, Toronto Eaton Centre
Canadian retailers have finally caught up with the times and are getting in on the action. On Black Friday this year, many malls will open earlier than usual to kick off their own version of Black Friday, even though the day is not a national holiday here, like it is in the States. Last year a handful of malls experimented with this idea, and saw a 22% jump in traffic through their doors. Well duh. If you're an early riser, head to Toronto's Eaton Centre and you can start the insanity at 6 a.m. Ouch. I'm glad I don't work in retail anymore. And if that mall is opening at 6 a.m., that means the Starbucks there will be open even earlier. Do me a favour if you do shop in person on Black Friday? Take a deep breath when you're waiting in lineups, don't wear a heavy coat that will end up annoying you to carry (or sweat in), and be nice to the staff at the shops, ok? It's not easy dealing with you rabid shopping maniacs so early in the morning :)

Most U.S. retailers also ship to Canada now (sooooo long overdue) and offer great shipping rates (like $9.99 by J.Crew, or free shipping at Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic when you spend over $50). You can take advantage of amazing deals from (or .ca),, and Best Buy/Future Shop, especially when you're in the market for digital electronics and TVs.  

Kate Spade Gift Shop at The Bay, Toronto Eaton Centre
To get a jump start on the deal-lovers, stores like The Bay, Holt Renfrew and Sears have already kicked off flash sales and holiday bargains early, offering big savings since the beginning of November.

If you're headed to the mall, expect to see savings like this on Black Friday:
~ Mendocino is offering up to 60% off plus a 20% off incentive card towards a future purchase.
~ Forever 21 will have special 'yellow tag' deals all day on November 29th.
~ Aldo will offer an extra 30% off sale shoes & boots plus 20% off select regular priced items.

For more highlights of deals and steals you can expect, visit my #BlackFridayCA blog post here.

If you enjoy the comfort of your own home, hop online on November 29th (my recommendation is to do it at 12:01 a.m. for those retailers whose systems have markdowns that go into effect at that time, as many do) and visit any of your favourite online retailers.

If you, like myself, want to support your local boutiques and business-owners, then SHOP LOCAL! Those shops and entrepreneurs make up the very fabric of your community, and they don't have the million-dollar marketing budgets of big box stores and national chains to catch your Black Friday attention. They do, however, have amazing and unique product assortments, they know the local tastes and trends far better than a giant company ever possibly could, and they are also getting on board with some great prices and cool events on Black Friday weekend too. You'll have to wait an extra day though - the Shop the Neighborhood campaign is happening on Saturday November 30th. Cities and neighborhoods involved include downtown Burlington, Oakville, the Danforth, the Beach, Bloor West Village and Brampton. 

Grab the "ShopWise" app on your mobile phone and you'll catch a few of the deals offered as part of the "Shop the Neighborhood" campaign (along with other deals happening at any given time) in whatever city you choose. For example, at Tamp Coffee in Burlington, you'll get a free cookie when you buy any beverage on November 30th. And trust me, I've had their cookies - delicious!    

Whatever you're doing between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be sure to remember what's really important in life: things like friends & family. It's really not about how much you save or what you spend. It's about how you spend your TIME!

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