Monday November 15, 2010

Retail News

Washington Stores Brace For Canadians

Three great reasons to shop stateside this season: Black Friday, HST and dollar parity

Staff/Voice/Web photo


f you want a reason to shop in the US this Christmas season, then you have a few to choose from. For starters, the HST would be a reason. A strong Canadian dollar is another. Black Friday is another. Want more? What about selection and quality and proximity to the border, cheaper gas and service?

Black Friday is to American consumers what Boxing Day is to Canadians. This year it falls on Nov. 26th. Chilliwack is just a half hour drive from the border and so its not a difficult trip for residents flocking south and soaring on a strong loonie tailwind. Expect deals on high-definition TVs, Blu-ray players, laptops and holiday gift favorites such as toys and hundreds of DVDs on sale at two bucks a pop.

The term "Black Friday" was coined in 1966 because of heavy foot and vehicle traffic in Philadelphia the first shopping day after Thanksgiving which always falls somewhere between the 23rd and 29th of November. Retailers decided to cash in on the day which also hails the start of the Christmas rush and now it's so crucial to stores that the November-December period can account for 50% or more of retailers' sales and profit for the full year.

But what does Black Friday mean to Canadians? Not much unless you're going stateside. The border is only a half hour drive from Chilliwack and you can bet that a lot of the city's residents will be making a pilgrimage south at some point over the holidays season.

Many big American retailers open their doors as early as midnight but the trick is to avoid the early hype which isn't hard when we're on this side of the line.

Some stores leak sale prices to websites while others like Walmart have stringent rules about leaking sale prices prior to Black Friday. On the other hand, stores like Toys R Us are putting up sale prices a week before Thanksgiving.

This year according to CNN Money report, Walmart doesn't want customers standing out in the cold and has confirmed that all of their stores will be open at midnight.

Some early prices in the CNN report from Black Friday flyers are "Doorbuster deals the circular advertises: the 32-inch Emerson 720p LCD HDTV for $198; 42-inch Emerson 1080p LCD HDTV for $398; 42-inch LG 1080p LCD HDTV for $478; Magnavox Wi-Fi Blu-ray player (with a $10 credit for on-demand movie service Vudu) for $68; 8GB iPod Touch for $225, plus a $50 Wal-Mart gift card; Kodak C183 14-megapixel 3-inch LCD digital camera for $59; and an HP 15.6-inch 250 GB harddrive laptop for $298. Other doorbusters also include $7 and $8 videogames, more than 90 DVD movie titles for $1.96, and Blu-ray disc movies for $5 and $10.

Walmart Black Friday deals include Zhu Zhu Pet toy hamsters for $4 each, $5 Barbie dolls, children's clothes for $4, Rival brand slow cookers and handmixers for $2.97, Hamilton Beach slow cookers and coffeemakers for $9.97 each, and Oster Electric griddles or waffle makers also priced at $9.97 each. Additionally, deals available only on Saturday include Sony's 46-inch 1080p LCD HDTV for $698.

The behemouth company is also going after online sales this in a big way over the Christmas season by offering free shipping on 60,000 items with no minimum purchase.

In July, spurred on by the implementation of the HST, over 600,000 British Columbians crossed the border to shop and Ken Oplinger, President/CEO of the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce, was on CKNW late last month talking about cross-border shopping.

According to Oplinger, 20-years ago the selection was better in the US than in Canada. That has changed and he figures the main reason Canadians are shopping more in the states is because of the HST. The one-two punch of a dollar at close to par with the American dollar and retailers in Whatcom County are rolling in the dough.

"If you look at border crossing numbers, just the straight numbers, we had about 350,000 more people cross in July than we had in June, said Oplinger. " Also, the 90-cent mark is generally where we see the uptick and most folks sort of see that as parity. But certainly when we get around the dollar mark, you're going to see another uptick as well.

If the BC government doesn't do something to stop the bleed-off of shoppers travelling to the US by adding incentives, then the economy will stumble and retail business will suffer.

Opplinger noted that his jurisdiction of Whatcom County and Bellingham is in better financial shape than most other areas of Washington thanks to British Columbians.

Fore more information visit or

On Twitter you can get wired to the sales feeds by adding; blackfriday


Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice