Black Friday is nearly as popular as the rest of the holiday shopping season

IMI's latest poll also shows being relevant to consumers goes beyond product and price.

The Christmas holidays are now only barely edging out Black Friday as the shopping period most Canadians look forward to.

That’s one of the findings in IMI’s latest wave of pandemic research, which polled consumers worldwide, including 1,000 in Canada.

According to IMI’s data, the Christmas holidays are the favourite shopping day for 27% of respondents, compared with 26% for Black Friday, the day that kicks off the shopping season. This was followed by 23% who said it was “any day I can afford it” and 16% who said they like any shopping day, regardless of occasion or event. That was followed by other sales events like Amazon Prime Day and Cyber Monday (both at 14%).

While the popularity of Black Friday is surging, 37% of Canadians will “buy nothing” on Black Friday this year, while another 32% “have no idea if they will spend more or less.”

“It’s up to brands to intercept them,” according to Don Mayo, IMI’s global managing partner. “Success is about being relevant, having a compelling offering and, most importantly, being better than the competition.”

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Some brands, he says, are doing their part to be more relevant in the pandemic, beyond just getting in-demand products or discounting them.

A strong concept, Mayo says, is CIBC’s “Pace It” payment instalment plan for purchases north of $100 on its no or low-fee credit cards. He says the instalment plan is is an effective means of engaging with consumers during COVID by helping them address cost concerns, and it makes people feel more positive about the brand.

Mayo also cites Zara’s clothing sizing tool, which has added further metrics to help pandemic shoppers wary of trying clothes on in store but who might still be apprehensive about whether online purchases are right for them. In addition to helping people determine the best size based on their height, weight, build, age and how they typically like their clothes to fit, it also shows return rates for products. While sizing tools have been around for a long time, offering return rate figures is a benefit to consumers who are more skittish about returns, Mayo says.

Consumers still remain concerned about returning indoors. According to IMI, 46% of respondents will require a vaccine before attending an indoor concert, 42% for an indoor sporting event, 39% for a film screening and 19% for a mall.

IMI also reports Canadians are looking to next spring and summer as times they would be most comfortable returning to live shows such as art galleries, auto shows, gardening shows and indoor concerts.

While these dates seem far off, there are glimpses of optimism: sit-down dining momentum is building, as is the desire to patronize quick service restaurants and to travel anywhere, even by boat.

“I’m a bit surprised that buffet and cruises are showing strong momentum, but that’s good news for those industries,” Mayo says.