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Black Friday, Cyber Monday shoppers to focus on quality, timing: experts

Analyst says inflation, economy will make shoppers more intentional about what they buy

For Harley Finkelstein, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are akin to the Super Bowl.

Staff at his e-commerce software company Shopify Inc. start preparing for the big week during the summer by stress-testing systems and ensuring checkout will be as seamless as possible for the firm’s thousands of merchants during the November shopping stretch.

“I don’t sleep for that five-day period,” said Finkelstein, Shopify’s president.

“My wife knows about it. My kids know about it. I am in full Black Friday, Cyber Monday mode.”

This year the e-commerce heavyweight expects the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales period to be just as frenzied, but something will be different: shoppers’ moods.

Inflation, high interest rates and layoffs are weighing on wallets — and Finkelstein thinks it will make shoppers more intentional about what they buy.

“I think ‘less but better’ is probably going to be one of the themes,” he said.

“More quality, less quantity, not necessarily buying 15 pieces of product, but rather buy three that are more meaningful to you.”

Spending across the entire holiday season will average $1,347 this year, down 11 per cent from last year, according to Deloitte. The consultancy firm said this drop represents shoppers making “fewer splurges and more thoughtful purchases across the board.”

When Shopify zeroed in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, its data showed the average Canadian consumer plans to spend $291 — the second highest amount globally after the United States.

The majority of Canadian shoppers — some 70 per cent — said they would spend the same or more on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year as last year.

About eight in 10, or 84 per cent, of the 2,000 Canadian shoppers Shopify surveyed in September said they want higher-quality products that will last for a long time. That’s up from 74 per cent who sought higher-quality goods in 2022.

Finkelstein considers this a sign that consumers are fuelling a “shift to value” — a move he’s even noticed when he’s filling his own closet.

The black James Perse T-shirt he likes wearing, for example, retails for $70.

“But it’s a much higher-quality T-shirt than the $10 T-shirt, so you’re not buying 10 of them, you’re buying three of them, and (I’ve) had this T-shirt for years now,” Finkelstein said.

Lisa Hutcheson, a retail strategist with J.C. Williams Group, similarly foresees shoppers being even more strategic and savvy this year.

She expects those planning a big purchase to hold off until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to see what deals materialize.

“Everybody’s sort of trying to stretch their dollar and being very conscious of what their budgets look like this year,” she said.

Shopify’s survey uncovered that about 49 per cent of respondents are putting aside more money each month than they have in previous years, and 46 per cent intend to spend more over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.

About 84 per cent of those earning between $53,000 and $75,000 a year and 81 per cent of those with a household income of at least $113,000 said they are more likely to shop during Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get greater value, the data showed.

Many will put more emphasis on incentives — free shipping, longer return periods, bonus loyalty program points — and if such benefits arrive before Black Friday, they won’t wait to make a purchase, Hutcheson said.

“People are starting earlier, they’re trying to spread their dollars out versus having this huge bill,” Hutcheson.

Such habits contribute to a trend the retail industry has been noticing for several years: the Black Friday shopping period is becoming longer than ever.

Rather than one day of sales in store followed by Cyber Monday’s online bonanza, the shopping period has now become a full week at many retailers. Some get the sales started days in advance, while others stretch it out into a month-long affair.

Mountain Equipment Co. is among the many companies leaning into the elongated shopping period.

Peter Hlynsky, chief executive of the Vancouver-based outdoor goods company, said promotions are “deeper” than they have been in previous years and started well before November.

“In our stores, we’re doing deals right now that normally you wouldn’t start until those (Black Friday and Cyber Monday) time frames,” he said in late October.

“It’s just earlier and everybody’s doing it. You can see across the whole market that everybody’s pulling everything way forward.”

But not everyone will be lured into opening their wallets early or at all, Hutcheson warned.

Some people shopping not for holiday gifts but for big ticket purchases will decide to hang on if they don’t see deals that are enticing enough.

“They may just wait till Boxing Day,” she said.

READ ALSO: Why is it called ‘Black Friday’ anyway?