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Black Friday Sales For Small Businesses

Black Friday Sales for Small Businesses

Black Friday has become a permanent fixture on our calendars. Some of us budget all year to take advantage of the deals that some retailers offer in November. Where did Black Friday come from, and should your small business be participating in these offerings? Consult with us on a Black Friday strategy today!

The Dark Origin of Black Friday

While we normally associate Black Friday with slashed prices, greed, and American Thanksgiving, it has darker roots than that.

The legend goes that after a whole year of operating at a loss (or being “in the red”) stores would host massive sales where shoppers preparing for the holidays would spend so much money in a day that they would finally turn a profit and go “into the black” on the day after Thanksgiving, roughly a month prior to Christmas.

While it will always be associated with Thanksgiving, it has ties to another American tradition - football. Back in the 1950’s the city of Philadelphia hosted an Army vs Navy football game every Saturday following Thanksgiving, which was Thursday. Football fans, tourists, and shoppers alike would flock to Philadelphia, absolutely overwhelming the city for the weekend. The Friday in particular became a target for shoplifters, knowing that city law enforcement was too occupied to go after them. Throughout history, we have applied the adjective “black” to many things with an aura of doom surrounding it, and in Philadelphia, the Friday after Thanksgiving was also given this distinction.

In the early 60s, the city attempted at no avail to change it to “Big Friday” to shake the negative connotation, and in the late 80’s retailers took back Black Friday and turned it into the “retail holiday” we now know and love.

Introduction into Canada

Before the introduction of Black Friday, we had to wait until Boxing Day to score deals like we see now in November! With its ties to American Thanksgiving and the city of Philadelphia, Black Friday is obviously an American tradition, so how did it become so mainstream here in Canada? There was a time when the discrepancy between the Canadian and American dollar wasn’t as glaring as it is now, and cross-border travel wasn’t as complicated. This made cross-border shopping trips for Black Friday deals quite popular, especially for Canadians living near the United States border.

After 2008, major Canadian retailers started to run Black Friday sales of their own to try and keep Canadian shoppers from leaving Canada and to keep their money in the Canadian economy. 2012 was when Black Friday really took off in Canada, with most retailers fully embracing the idea of this kick off to the holiday shopping season.

Who Shops Black Friday Deals?

Roughly a third of Canadians actively participate in Black Friday shopping, with men and women being just as likely to partake. That is to say, they wait for this shopping event and hunt for deals. Many consider Black Friday to be the kickoff of their holiday shopping season, hoping to score some discounts on Christmas presents. Unsurprisingly, the most popular items searched online for Black Friday are electronics and toys. 2021 was no exception, with the most searched item being the Nintendo Switch.

According to statistics presented by, Christmas shopping isn’t the only reason Canadians are shopping Black Friday.

  • 10.7% shop out of boredom
  • 11% shop because they believe they are a great value
  • 9.4% shop for no specific reason

Consumer Expectations

Black Friday sales have become synonymous with steep discounts. Customers waiting for this particular shopping day aren’t even getting out of bed for less than 50% off. Speaking of not getting out of bed, thanks to the advancements in eCommerce and online shopping, we don’t even to do that! Lining up at the crack of dawn or camping out in front of a store the night before to ensure you actually get in the store is a thing of the past. Can you believe people actually used to do that? Thankfully that mostly died out pre-pandemic. That still didn’t guarantee that you would get your chance to shop instore, or that the product you wanted wouldn’t sell out! Customers can now shop from the comfort of their own home, without the stress of Black Friday crowds and long lines. Online shopping, however, gave rise to other consumer expectations. Customers still want their products as fast as possible, and they want free shipping. The curbside pick-up option born of the pandemic is a consumer favourite option for local transactions, as they can secure their purchase and instead of waiting for it to be delivered, go to the store and have it loaded it into their vehicle.

Should Small Businesses Participate in Black Friday?

As always with these kinds of questions, there is no clear “yes or no” answer, however, this is the Smart WSI Marketing answer. Small businesses often can’t keep up with big box retailers when it comes to Black Friday deals. Those 70% off door crasher deals they can offer don’t tend to suit smaller businesses with smaller profit margins. That doesn’t mean you have to shy away from offering Black Friday deals all together! Offering any small discount that you can is a great way to show your appreciation to customers who were going to buy from you anyway instead of the big guys.

How to Offer the Deals Customers Crave

Obviously, offering a discount where you can is the number one way to participate in the Black Friday hoopla, however, it’s not the only option.


Again, this one is obvious. Smaller businesses obviously can’t offer the massive discounts that big box stores with big margins can, but offering a small discount where you can will draw in customers and drive sales.


Putting together value deals or bundles are a great way to drive sales for Black Friday. Your customers are looking to get the most value they can for their money, and anywhere they can save will be an enticing offer. Consider sales like BOGO (buy one get one.) You don’t necessarily have to give something away for free with every sale, but you can put on deals like buy one get one 50% off, 3 products for the price of 2, etc.

Value Add-Ons:

If a sale isn’t necessarily in your budget for Black Friday, perhaps you can drive sales with add-ons that make your regular pricing a little bit more attractive with a perceived added value. For example, if you sell hair products, you could give away a free comb with each purchase. The extra sales you are likely to get because of the freebie would offset the cost of the comb.

Early Bird Specials:

Like we mentioned earlier, when Black Friday really caught on, people used to camp out in front of malls and stores in hopes of being first in the doors to nab those jaw dropping deals. While people don’t really do that anymore, you can still reward early customers by offering a limited time sale. You can offer a small discount for the first certain amount of people through the door, or for the first hour of two of opening to incentivize a lot of foot traffic in a short amount of time.

Segmented Offers:

Take advantage of the digital age and send out segmented offers to your customers. Through the power of email marketing, send out custom messaging to customers. Even if the offer is the same, you can send out different messages to new customers who have just signed up for your emails than to customers who have already purchased from you. Alternatively, you can choose to send these segments different offers as well!

Don’t Wait!

Speaking of email marketing, don’t wait until it’s too late to promote your small business Black Friday sales either. Start teasing your sale or offers at the beginning of November, or even sooner. In the States, Black Friday is the day after they celebrate Thanksgiving. Here in Canada, any time after our Thanksgiving is pretty much game to start planning and sharing details about your Black Friday sale. Did you know that roughly 40% of holiday shoppers actually start before Halloween?

Be Social

Take to social media 10 to 14 days out from the big day! Facebook ads are a great tool to make sure your ideal customers know about your offer. Invite your followers to share your deal with their friends too. The more buzz you can generate about your promotions, the better!

Let’s Talk Strategy!

Like all digital marketing strategies, your Black Friday campaign should be custom tailored to your business. Smart WSI Marketing can help you put together an effective advertising campaign to kick off your holiday season. We take the time to truly understand our client’s marketing goals, and the people behind the business. Between a deep understanding of our clients and a results-driven approach, we are able to craft campaigns to bring you leads and drive sales! Get in touch with us today to discuss your Black Friday sales strategy and more today.

Lynne team member
Lynne Motkoski, Marketing Strategist
Specialty: Online Marketing Strategies
Education: MA Communications & Technology, BComm [U Alberta]
Author: The Online Marketing Handbook for Busy Entrepreneurs (coming soon)

Lynne is known for her strategic approach to marketing communications, technologies, and lead generation. She has a passion for education, keeping up with current marketing trends and practices, and helping clients keep ahead of their competition.


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