A month of Black Friday: Downtown Montreal stores plan sales bonanza to save disastrous year

It’s not just restaurants in downtown Montreal that are suffering, some fatally, from a lack of office workers and tourists.

Retail outlets have also been having an unfathomably bad year. But they have a solution they think will help: taking the concept of Black Friday and expanding it into a month-long extravaganza.

It’s not just to draw as many people into the as possible—it’ll also allow for distancing, they say, when you think of the normal Black Friday crush of shoppers.

“They don't want a ton of people at the same time downtown,” said Sheldon Cohen of a store called Layton Audio.

Layton Audio has been on Ste. Catherine St. for more than a century, and Cohen says there’s no doubt 2020 stands out as an awful business year, even within such a long timespan.

“Don't forget, a lot of people who work in offfice buildings aren't going to the office, so that's a big bulk of our business too,” he said.

Usually, Black Friday is the fourth Friday in November, right after American Thanksgiving. It’s seen as the kickoff for the all-important holiday shopping season.

“For a small retailer, Black Friday to the Christmas season can be as much as 50 to 60 per cent of their sales” for the entire year,” said Saibal Ray of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill.

Different merchants have different strategies for expanding the day. Some plan to have Black Friday deals ongoing for the whole month. Others will have different days with deep discounts.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante has also urged people to remember their local stores when they do their holiday shopping.

“I invite Montrealers to shop local,” she said. “Forget about the big online companies. They don’t need us.”

On Thursday, CTV News found a few people doing just that—that is, the opposite of what Plante had hoped.

One said that in this era of staying home, online shopping was “the way to go.”

Local retailers said they understand people’s desire to stay home, so they’re also upping their ecommerce games, along with the multiple days of Black Friday deals.

That also makes it important for a smaller shop to spread out the sales.

“They also do not want a lot of online orders coming at the same time, so from their logistics [point of view] they want to spread out the orders,” said Saibal.

Montreal merchants have their own advice for shoppers: if there’s something you have your heart set on, start looking soon. The pandemic has caused unpredictable ups and downs in inventory, so whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute.

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