Black Friday Shopping Starts Quietly on the East Coast, More Shopping Expected Online

November 27, 2020 Updated: November 27, 2020

Black Friday has started in Canada, with early indications from the East Coast pointing to a subdued shopping day amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Halifax, some big box stores still had short lineups on opening today despite surging COVID-19 cases and rainy skies.

But the roughly 40 people lined up at Best Buy and dozen or so shoppers at Staples is a far cry from the usual pre-dawn Black Friday queues that snake around stores and parking lots.

By mid-morning, the largest lineup was at a Tim Hortons drive-thru, as consumers observed the city’s 25 percent retail capacity restrictions.

It’s a sign that staggered Black Friday promotions, which many retailers began rolling out as early as October, as well as the push to offer more discounted items online has worked.

Indeed, retail analysts expect the majority of this year’s Black Friday purchases to be made online due to public health concerns with in-store shopping.

Eric Morris, head of retail at Google Canada, says e-commerce in Canada has doubled during the pandemic.

He says given ongoing lockdowns and in-store capacity limits, online sales are expected to be strong today and remain heightened over the holiday shopping season.

Although Black Friday’s top sellers tend to be big−ticket electronics, some shoppers might be on the hunt for deals on more basic items this year.

Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at consulting firm J.C. Williams Group, says some shoppers may take advantage of today’s sales to “stock up and hunker down for the winter.”

Black Friday, which started as a post-Thanksgiving sale in the United States, has gained in popularity in Canada in recent years.

It has also become an increasingly important sales event for retailers, along with Cyber Monday, overshadowing Boxing Day.

Robin Sahota, managing director and Canadian retail lead for professional services firm Accenture, says retailers might be saving some special discounts for Cyber Monday.

“It’s going to be a day where retailers look to add some sweeteners to entice consumers, particularly with the pull forward of Black Friday,” he says. “I think folks will be seeking out something special on Cyber Monday.”