As supply chain issues continue to hamper some parts of the economy and shoppers gear up for Black Friday, experts are predicting a rush of in-store shoppers in outlets across the country.
According to Bruce Winder, a Toronto-based retail analyst and author, Black Friday is shaping up to be “very interesting” this year for Canadian shoppers.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold over much of the previous year, millions of Canadians were forced to rely on online shopping to fulfil their Black Friday and holiday shopping needs. But that same pandemic also took its toll on the global supply chain, resulting in widespread shortages particularly for retailers selling electronics.
But would the 2021 global supply chain crisis, and its increased possibility for shipping delays, move even more people to physical locations instead of keeping to the online storefront? Winder and other experts suggest that its likely, but that there’s also the addition of customers feeling the itch to come back after a virtually non-existent year of in-store browsing and buying.
“So people want to get out there; they’re tired of staying indoors,” said Winder.
“The novelty of shopping is still alive and well and people want to get out there, have some fun and shop.”
That sentiment to return to normal indoor shopping is one that’s shared very strongly by Canadians, according to those at the Retail Council of Canada (RCC).
According to the organization’s annual holiday shopping survey of over 2,500 Canadians from coast to coast, many more Canadians are feeling “much more optimistic” this year when it comes to shopping.
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“They have a strong desire to return to a more normal holiday traditions,” said Michelle Wasylyshen, a spokesperson for the RCC.
“We’re in a very different situation this year — we have vaccinations, we have stores that have had now over a year to have their safety protocols in place. We have removal of the more aggressive restrictions that were taking place in many regions across Canada.”
The survey also found that the majority Canadians were planning to shop much earlier this year in order to take advantage of holiday sales and product availability, with 36 per cent planning to begin their holiday shopping in November and as many as 30 per cent having already begun their shopping before that month.
And while Winder and the RCC both pointed to the impending influx of in-store shoppers tomorrow, both were quick to not entirely discount the impact the global supply chain snaggle would have on the availability of certain products and items.
“People realize this, a lot of media coverage of supply chain issues, and if you’re a consumer, you’re thinking you better get out there now or get online now and take advantage of this,” said Winder.
Wasylyshen said that the RCC’s message to consumers this years has been to “shop earlier and be flexible.”
“There is still going to be an impact, we know that certainly in some retail categories, there’s going to be a more difficult time this year getting product,” said Wasylyshen.
However, the depth of any such holiday discount — and product availability — is expected to be greatly influenced by the size of the individual retailers themselves.
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Huge retail giants like Amazon and Walmart have been preparing for Black Friday over the course of the year and already have “amazing” supply chains in place allowing them to offer deep discounts and offload more inventory, according to Winder.
On the other hand, smaller brick and mortar stores may offer less of a markdown in comparison and are more likely to have a “spotty” inventory coupled with inflation.
According to University of Toronto marketing professor David Soberman, Black Friday will have a lot to do with “three forces” coming together at once: “pandemic fever,” supply chain issues and a major push from Canadian retailers to take advantage of the day itself.
“I just think there’s going to be a lot more shopping than there was last year for sure. And, you know, time will tell whether it’s going to be at pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
When asked whether there were worries boiling over a larger than expected crowd of shoppers tomorrow at shopping centres across the country, several of Canada’s largest retail investment and development companies said that measures have been put in place to keep shoppers safe.
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Senior vice-president of Cadillac Fairview Tom Knoepfel said that “additional” measures have been introduced in their malls, while William Correia, director of Yorkdale Shopping Centre, said that they’ve extended Black Friday shopping hours.
Knoepfel, who referenced the results of the RCC survey, said that Canadians were going to spend more on holiday shopping and visit more brick-and-mortar stores this year.
“We’re hopeful this means traffic will be increased at our shopping centres over the holiday season, but we do not anticipate the same levels as years prior to the pandemic as shoppers are expected to start their holiday shopping early,” he said.
— with files from The Canadian Press
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