Downtown Charlottetown ignoring Black Friday, say small merchants 'can't compete'

Downtown Charlottetown ignoring Black Friday, say small merchants 'can't compete'

Merchants in downtown Charlottetown are planning to ignore the idea of Black Friday and the deep discounts the post-U.S. Thanksgiving shopping frenzy has brought to Canadian retailers in recent years. 

Black Friday has overtaken Boxing Day for sales at many Canadian shopping centres, but small local merchants in P.E.I.'s capital say the event is not for them.

"Small retailers can't compete with the huge discounts, loss leaders offered by the big-box stores," said Dawn Alan with Downtown Charlottetown Inc. (DCI).

"But on the other hand, the big-box stores don't stand a chance competing with downtown Charlottetown shops when it comes to unique product and customer service."

Downtown Charlottetown will instead hold several holiday-themed events including a weekend-long outdoor Victorian Christmas Market with free horse and wagon rides and carolers, the Santa Claus Parade Saturday evening and classic Christmas movies at City Cinema downtown. 

On Friday, DCI will also launch its second-annual Downtown Dollars sale, which offers gift dollars that can be used at more than 100 downtown stores. The sale on Friday offers the dollars at 20 per cent off — for example, customers can buy $100 worth for $80.

"Last year we sold out $25,000 in a couple hours," Alan said. The sale will happen in the Confederation Court Mall in the former Eclipse store.

The city will also launch the Wintertide Holiday Festival with its annual Christmas tree lighting Friday night followed by six weeks of events including free concerts, family skates and craft fairs. 

'It never felt right'

The Confederation Court Mall held Black Friday events in the past, but mall merchants met and decided not to this year. 

"I always felt uncomfortable — it never felt right. It felt like we couldn't compete," said Jennifer Ridgeway, who owns Luna Eclectic Emporium in the mall and Moonsnail Soapworks on Water Street. 

"Leave them to it, let them have it," Ridgeway said of the big-box retailers on the outskirts of the city, who offer door-buster deals on items like home electronics on Black Friday. 

Stores downtown try to keep low prices year-round, and provide "awesome customer service," Ridgeway said, noting most independent retailers are "working with small margins" on their products. 

"Let the big box stores have Black Friday, that's just one day. In downtown Charlottetown we celebrate the season every day," Alan said.

- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Filmmakers keen for details on new government fund

- MORE P.E.I. NEWS | Windy October makes saving money a breeze for Summerside