Black Friday may not be the best day to steal a deal

Think twice before you shop until you drop.


Let the hunting begin … but only after you’ve done your homework.

Though there are good deals to be had this Black Friday, consumers would be wise to research prices and hold out for a better steal during Boxing Day sale week or a promotion any other time of year, said Kyle Murray, a marketing expert and director of the University of Alberta’s School of Retailing.

“There will definitely be some good deals this Black Friday, especially from companies like Amazon who will be doing some deep discounting. But across the board, the sales probably aren’t that much better than other sales throughout the year,” said Murray. “It really depends on how much retailers are worried about losing market share.”

Canadian retailers’ adoption of America’s biggest shopping day was born of necessity, explained Murray.

“Black Friday was never an issue in Canada until cross-border and online shopping grew, forcing them to offer some kind of deal or risk losing too much market share,” he said. “So who will have the best deals comes down to market share. If a retailer’s worried you’re going to buy that big-screen television somewhere else and have it shipped, then they will discount it more.”

So should you hold out for Boxing Day sales?

“Boxing Day tends to offer better value sales,” says John Williams, president of Toronto retail consultancy J.C. Williams Group. “Boxing Day is an end-of-the-season sale so having merchandise you can’t move is a far more compelling reason to offer discounts.”

Boxing Day is also spread out over a slightly longer period than Black Friday and Cyber Monday, added Murray, which may lure in shoppers with flash sales.

We tend to believe things that are less available are more valuable, and when things become less available and we can’t have them, we want them more, explained Sarah Moore, a U of A marketing researcher.

“This latter bit is called psychological reactance, and it's a very powerful motivator,” she added. “When things are taken away from us (limited time, limited quantity promotions), these limits impinge on our freedom of choice, which we hold very dear—and so we re-establish our freedom by making every possible effort to get what is limited or restricted.”

That’s why preparing a list of items to shop for and better yet, doing some preliminary groundwork, can help prevent any post-purchase regret, said Murray. “Do research in advance of the weekend to make sure what’s being promoted as a deep discount really is. A great deal at $19.99 isn’t that great when the price is normally $22.”

If you stick with online shopping you may avoid another psychological trap that can lead to impulse purchasing, added Moore: competition. “If there are lineups, and if everybody else is rushing out to get stuff—whether this is true or whether companies make it look like it's true—we infer it must be worth getting.”