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

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
VIDEO: Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Most Read