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Black Friday vs. Boxing Day: Which is the better bargain?

Shoppers wait in line to pay for purchases as the holiday shopping season kicks off with ‘El Buen Fin’ (The Good Weekend), at a Sam’s Club store, in Mexico City, Mexico, November 17, 2017. (REUTERS/Henry Romero)

Everyone loves a good deal. For some, they love it so much that they will arise from their slumber at unholy hours and race to malls to wait in a line of other diehard shoppers, all hoping that the much-coveted Hatchimal or Xbox One X will soon be theirs.

Bargain shoppers are a breed of their own, and their dedication to saving money while also getting the coolest stuff can be pretty intense–we’ve all got ‘that friend’ that takes shopping to a whole new level, especially during holiday season.

Black Friday shopping can get downright ugly.

It’s not a surprise that November and December make up the bulk of consumer shopping year after year, but whether to go all out before or following Christmas differs depending on who you talk to. Deals found on Black Friday (which falls on November 24 this year) and Cyber Monday (November 27) have increased in popularity over the past five years and now directly compete with deals found on Boxing Day.

So, does this holiday shopping season look buzzing or bleak this year? According to the annual survey from the U.S. National Retail Federation (NRF), American consumers say they expect to spend an average of $967.13 USD, which is up 3.4 per cent ($935.58 USD) from last year.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says “consumers are more confident this year” and “retailers have been stocking up” in order to be ready for the rush that typically begins after American Thanksgiving and runs until Boxing Day.

The report projects that holiday retail sales for both November and December could amass to $682 billion, with 57 per cent of shoppers buying at department stores and 59 per cent going online to shop. This is the first time that online is the favourite way to buy.

Another report, this time conducted by discount destination website, RetailMeNot, also predicts the season to be busy. The Black Friday weekend is forecasted to increase by 47 per cent from 2016, with nearly seven in 10 shoppers hunting for deals during the Black Friday holiday weekend.

November and December are expected to be busy, but if you wager shopping early (and capitalizing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday) are you getting better deals than you would if you waited until Boxing Day?

According to previous research done through Colliers International, the answer is not really.

“The deals were about the same on Black Friday as they were on Boxing Day,” says Colliers consultant and strategic planner, James Smerdon who’s been consulting on retail trends for 20 years. “There’s slightly better deals on Boxing Day, but most people want these purchases for Christmas,” so waiting for a better deal isn’t always practical.

“Black Friday is as big as ever in Canada,” says Smerdon. “I think both Black Friday in the U.S. and Boxing Day in Canada have lost a bit of their frenzy. The consumer’s access to limitless information and online discounters is probably to blame.”

Cyber Monday, the major online shopping event leading up to Christmas, appears to be drawing increasing attention. More than 56 per cent of consumers surveyed by RetailMeNot said they are planning to buy on Cyber Monday, last year only 39 per cent shared this sentiment.

Make a list, check it twice

However, are we more excited about the deals or the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on said deals? Is the actual experience more of what we’re after? How do we really save or are we just playing into a false sense of urgency?

Personal finance expert, Jessica Moorhouse, says it’s all about monitoring deals and planning ahead.

“Sure, there are deals to be had, but the only way you can really come out ahead is if you make a solid plan for Black Friday/Cyber Monday,” says Moorhouse. “This means making a list of things you were already planning on buying (stuff for the home, Christmas gifts), note down their pre-sale prices, then when Black Friday/Cyber Monday roll around, you can start shopping knowing exactly how much you will save by buying these items that are now discounted in price.” The same holds true for Boxing Day.

Moorhouse took her own advice last year, and was able to snag a sweet deal because of it.

“I got my DSLR from Henry’s and it was a deal because I was monitoring the price on it for a while so I knew it was a good discount…it was already on my list, I was just waiting for a good time to buy it,” Moorhouse says.

Smerdon also agrees that “doing your research is important” and by “only buying things that you really want or need” you can curb buyer’s remorse and save a lot of time. But, he does note that behaviour for Black Friday weekend differs from that on Boxing Day, particularly when comparing Canada to the United States.

“The U.S. doesn’t have Boxing Day like we do so much of their discounting and sales volume energy is concentrated on this one weekend [Black Friday weekend]. Every retailer has a sale unlike in Canada where some have traditionally held off on sales on Black Friday and/or Boxing Day,” explains Smerdon.

Determining what type of goods and services will actually be worth the discount dash is also important. Consumer electronics and technology writer, Stephen Slaybaugh, outlines his “do not buy” list for Black Friday, which includes jewellery, fitness equipment and winter clothing. But, it all depends on retailers, as some big box stores’ discounts may be dismal and smaller companies may be more inclined to give a greater bargain in hopes they’ll attract more customers.

Take Montreal clothing retailer Frank And Oak, which is among the companies that’s investing in Black Friday, but also betted on the pre-Black Friday draw. Now offering both men’s and women’s selections (the first women’s store opened last month in Toronto), Frank And Oak started their discounts on November 14 (with deals up to 50 per cent off on selected items). For Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers can expect between 30 to 35 per cent off of purchases, and even following Cyber Monday (Nov. 28 to Dec. 4) Frank And Oak will offer consumers up to 50 per cent off selected items. Doing your research can help you save money, and it’s not just the big department stores that could win you over.

So which is better for Canadians, Black Friday or Boxing Day? The real answer is you need to watch specific products, and figure out when the stuff you want gets discounted to a price you can be happy with.

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