Many Canadians — including Tri-City residents — will vote with their feet this week and head south on Black Friday in hopes of finding bargains on electronics, appliances, apparel and food.
This trek is part of a general trend of Canadians to cross-border shop while our dollar’s value stays relatively high, and although the price spread is just 10% — not a huge difference given the time spent in border lineups and the cost of gas — the general impression is that U.S. retailers do a better job in keeping prices low.
The truth is more complicated as retailers, such as London Drugs, have been adapting to consumer demand, offering competitive deals and early shopping hours for Black Friday to keep shoppers at home. As well, the entry of Walmart and Target have forced Canadian retailers to sharpen their pencils.
It’s unfair to blame Canadian retailers solely for the price differences. In fact, Canada’s relatively small consumer market compared to the U.S. contributes to higher pricing overall. Foreign suppliers have historically charged more for their product, knowing Canadian consumers will still pay the higher price, and because Canada is a more costly market to service. Transportation costs, distribution costs, somewhat higher labour costs, tariffs and fees as well as higher rent and real estate costs all add to the mark-up we pay on goods. It’s a fact of life in a country with a smaller population.
But should retailers ignore the desire of Canadians to get more for their money? Absolutely not, they need to take some responsibility for the problem of cross-border shopping and do what they can to keep customers at home — whether it be through enhanced customer service, warranty servicing or more competitive pricing.
At the same time, Canadian consumers shouldn’t be let off the hook.They need to know that circulating their dollar in their home community keeps themselves and their neighbours employed, and thus benefits local economies. Dollars spent in Canada will also ensure that we continue to enjoy health care, a strong social safety net and many other benefits.
When it comes to quality of life, you get what you pay for.