CALGARY -- It’s known as the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season and thousands of Calgarians are set to take advantage of Black Friday deals across the city. 

Shopping centres are expected to be busy with more than double the expected amount of people. 

"Black Friday is becoming more and more popular in Canada across the board and we’re seeing numbers now close to Boxing Day since 2018," said Paige O’Neal, general manager of CF Chinook Centre.  "We’re expecting well over 60,000 people."

According to data from Moneris Canada, Black Friday sales peaked across the country last year between 2p.m. to 5p.m.  During those hours, there were more than 250 transactions per second. 

The large crowds are expected once again this year with many retailers offering deals of 30 to 50 per cent off or "buy one, get one" sales. 

The surge in online shopping in recent years has put a damper on retail sales in Alberta with some financial experts also suggesting consumer debt and higher unemployment has played a factor. 

The latest data from Statistics Canada shows retail sales are down 2.7 per cent from September 2018 to September 2019. Total retail sales declined were down $187 million compared to a year earlier. 

Despite the drop, mall managers aren’t concerned and are still confident Calgarians will spend in store. 

"All the stores have omni-channels so they can help their clients whether they’re shopping in store or online," said O’Neal. "But a lot of people shop at our malls for the experience - it sounds crazy with the big crowds, but it certainly kicks off the holiday season."

CF Market Mall and CF Chinook both have extended hours Friday from 8a.m. to 9p.m.