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Calgary shoppers flock to big box stores for Black Friday sales

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CALGARY -

Calgarians are embracing the hustle and bustle of in-person, last-minute holiday shopping, which welcomed thousands to take advantage of Black Friday deals.

The rush started bright and early with about a dozen vehicles with eager customers parked outside the Sunridge Best Buy location in northeast Calgary at least three hours before the store opened.

Store manager Cooper Holm says his location anticipated a surge in shoppers for the retail event as pandemic concerns ease with dropping case numbers and shopping trends shifting earlier in the holiday season.

“I wish I could say I was surprised, but this happens every single year and it's one of the things that I love about the holiday season,” Holm said.

“Black Friday has quickly over the last couple of years become the busiest shopping day in the year for us.

Holm adds that his store has strategized to ensure the back rooms are stockpiled with product and discounts have been in place all week.

According to the 2021 holiday shopping report from Accenture, about 57 per cent of Canadians are planning to do the majority of their shopping in a physical store this holiday season.

The report also suggested that 75 per cent intend to do some (46 per cent) or a lot (29 per cent) of their holiday shopping in December, with nearly half (47 per cent) admitting they will do some or most of their shopping at the last minute.

Alberta retail stores continue to be under public health restrictions including mandatory masks, physical distancing at check-outs, and capacity limits of one-third of fire code requirements.

SUPPORT STILL NEEDED FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

As Black Friday sales reel in thousands of shoppers to big box stores, many beleaguered small business owners are worried they will continue to lose sales.

According to the Canadian Federations of Independent Business (CFIB), about 49 per cent of businesses across Canada are worried their sales won’t return to normal and only 36 per cent of businesses are still making normal sales.

“Over the last couple of years, small firms across Canada have been put through the ringer and so many are only hanging on by their fingernails right now as a result of COVID restrictions,” said CFIB CEO Dan Kelly.

“I think as people drive around, they see that parking lots are fairly full, they see that businesses are largely open, and they think that things are back to normal, but behind the counter of these small businesses, it is anything but normal.”

 

Kelly adds that a new Small Business Saturday initiative, set for Nov. 27, is now encouraging shoppers to save some of their holiday spend and support local businesses.

 

The initiative is more important than ever for small retailers like Poor David’s, a local gift shop in Calgary’s Inglewood community.

 

Owner, Karrie Peace says the two months before Christmas are essential to her business thriving as she relies on community support to get by.

 

“I am grateful for the community to recognize since COVID that that keeping Walmart's open and shutting down the small businesses really was so harmful to all of us, and shoppers who decide to put value on the small business recognize its part in the community,” Peace said.

 

“It’s the uniqueness, the friendly service, the connection that small business brings.”

 

Peace is optimistic that her sales won’t be too affected by Black Friday this year, but hopes supply chain issues will encourage shoppers to buy local and receive their products on the spot without having to worry if they will arrive in time for Christmas.

 

GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES

 

Retail experts we’re like to see more in-person shopping this holiday season as the global supply chain is experiencing major disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Mount Royal University professor Rajbir Bhatti says one of the biggest struggles has been a lack of available drivers to ship goods in Canada and the U.S.

 

“Even as we speak, you know we are 80,000 drivers short in the U.S. and we are about 25,000 short in Canada,” Bhatti said.

 

“But these numbers, if we don't take proactive action on the shortages of drivers, will see escalating ramifications and supply chains are going to double in the next 10 years.”

 

Bhatti notes that a shortage of shipping containers is also a major issue plaguing delivery times.

 

“In North America, we only have containers coming full from the east into the West and when it comes to sending containers back from the west to the east of the world, you don't want to ship here,” he said.

“So you've got pretty much empty containers sometimes that have to be sent back, so we have to figure out what to send back in those containers, otherwise the journey back to China doesn't make financial sense.”

 

Bhatti calls the supply chain issues across the world a “once in a century” problem that has also led to a huge shortage of microchips.

 

About 70 per cent of the global supply comes from Taiwan, which saw the majority of its orders for automobiles discontinued last year due to the pandemic and re-routed to computers.

 

North America still has a solid supply chain which can be re-routed to shelves, according to Bhatti, but he adds that the federal government should take better action following recent flooding that blocked several highways in British Columbia.

 

“Right now, just to ensure that goods are there on the shelves when you want them, companies like Bison Transport and everybody else are doing detours on Highway 3, they're doing detours through the U.S. and back into Canada.

 

“This adds a lot of administrative work, so having strategically robust designs of supply chains and carriers is something that we should be focusing on.”

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