For Harley Finkelstein, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are akin to the Super Bowl

Ottawa retail Cyber Monday

Shopify Inc. says this year’s Black Friday sales across its merchants were 22 per cent higher than the year before.

The Ottawa-based e-commerce company says businesses using its software made $4.1 billion in sales on Black Friday.

The average purchase in Canada over the Black Friday weekend totalled $171.60, with most sales coming in around noon eastern time on Friday.

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Shopify says the most popular categories for purchases in the country were cosmetics, necklaces, shirts, earrings, underwear and socks.

Salesforce says online sales on Black Friday totalled $70.9 billion globally and in Canada were up two per cent from the year before.

For Harley Finkelstein at Shopify, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are akin to the Super Bowl.

Staff at the e-commerce software company start preparing for the big week during the summer by stress-testing systems and ensuring checkout will be as seamless as possible for the firm’s thousands of merchants during the November shopping stretch.

“I don’t sleep for that five-day period,” said Finkelstein, Shopify’s president.

“My wife knows about it. My kids know about it. I am in full Black Friday, Cyber Monday mode.”

This year, the e-commerce heavyweight expected the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales period to be just as frenzied, but something will be different: shoppers’ moods.

Inflation, high interest rates and layoffs are weighing on wallets and Finkelstein thinks it will make shoppers more intentional about what they buy.

“I think ‘less but better’ is probably going to be one of the themes,” he said.

“More quality, less quantity, not necessarily buying 15 pieces of product, but rather buy three that are more meaningful to you.”

Spending across the entire holiday season will average $1,347 this year, down 11 per cent from last year, according to Deloitte. The consultancy firm said this drop represents shoppers making “fewer splurges and more thoughtful purchases across the board.”

When Shopify zeroed in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, its data showed the average Canadian consumer plans to spend $291, the second-highest amount globally after the United States.

The majority of Canadian shoppers — about 70 per cent — said they would spend the same or more on Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year as last year.

About eight in 10, or 84 per cent, of the 2,000 Canadian shoppers Shopify surveyed in September said they want higher-quality products that will last for a long time. That’s up from 74 per cent who sought higher-quality goods in 2022.

Finkelstein considers this a sign that consumers are fuelling a “shift to value,” a move he’s even noticed when he’s filling his own closet.

The black James Perse T-shirt he likes wearing, for example, retails for $70.

“But it’s a much higher-quality T-shirt than the $10 T-shirt, so you’re not buying 10 of them, you’re buying three of them, and (I’ve) had this T-shirt for years now,” Finkelstein said.

Lisa Hutcheson, a retail strategist with J.C. Williams Group, similarly foresees shoppers being even more strategic and savvy this year.

She expects those planning a big purchase to hold off until Black Friday or Cyber Monday to see what deals materialize.

“Everybody’s sort of trying to stretch their dollar and being very conscious of what their budgets look like this year,” she said.

Shopify’s survey uncovered that about 49 per cent of respondents are putting aside more money each month than they have in previous years, and 46 per cent intend to spend more over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.

About 84 per cent of those earning between $53,000 and $75,000 a year and 81 per cent of those with a household income of at least $113,000 said they are more likely to shop during Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get greater value, the data showed.

Many will put more emphasis on incentives — free shipping, longer return periods, bonus loyalty program points — and if such benefits arrive before Black Friday, they won’t wait to make a purchase, Hutcheson said.

“People are starting earlier, they’re trying to spread their dollars out versus having this huge bill,” Hutcheson.

Such habits contribute to a trend the retail industry has been noticing for several years: the Black Friday shopping period is becoming longer than ever.

Rather than one day of sales in store, followed by Cyber Monday’s online bonanza, the shopping period has now become a full week at many retailers. Some get the sales started days in advance, while others stretch it out into a month-long affair.

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