Boxing Day madness hits Canada

Unclear if the ice storm mattered

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

VANCOUVER – Christmas Day tranquility turned to buzzing excitement on Thursday as stores across much of Canada filled with the sounds of eager Boxing Day deal hunters and ringing registers.

In Vancouver, shoppers lined up outside downtown stores with windows signs advertising deep discounts and buy-one-get-one-free deals. Those piling into Future Shop came out later carrying everything from televisions and game consoles to computer keyboards and headphones.

General Manager Dan Christie said Future Shop’s online discounts began on Christmas Eve, but many people still chose to shop in-person on Boxing Day.

“Our baskets are almost all gone,” he said.

Even those who wished for better discounts managed to pick up something. Sydney Robinson settled for a plaid shirt at a packed clothing store after paying just $5 less than full price.

Tanja Milosevic left Future Shop carrying a Nintendo Wii U for her young son, even though she had hoped for more than just $50 off the $300-console.

“It’s still expensive…but I needed a present for him for Christmas,” she said, referring to Christmas in Serbia, which is on Jan. 7.

In southern Ontario, it’s unclear how last weekend’s ice storm has affected sales, but weather problems have apparently not deterred people looking for a good bargain.

Cassidy Chin said that though the lines at Toronto’s downtown Eaton Centre were long and the weather outside had been frightful, it wasn’t enough to scare him away.

“We’ve never been out Boxing Day shopping. The weather hasn’t impacted it at all, we just wanted to get out and get some sales,” he said while queued outside a trendy clothing store.

“However, this is insane.”

Pamela Favotto intended to pick up a new pair of boots, but that plan was dashed by the throng of shoppers.

“I’m leaving soon,” she said.

“As soon as I saw the lineup to get into a store, I was like, ‘These people are crazy, I don’t want to stay here.’ It’s too crowded.”

Anthony Casalanguida, the General Manager at Toronto’s giant Yorkdale shopping mall, said you would never know there were weather problems based on the volume of shoppers in his facility, which was on track to increase by five per cent compared to last year.

However, people have also been coming to the mall since Monday for a different purpose, thanks to last weekend’s ice storm knocking out power in many Toronto-area homes.

“We’re seen a little bit more people taking advantage of electricity for recharging their phones and their iPads and their computers,” Casalanguida said.

“Utilizing the shopping centre as a warming centre probably was something that people did do, but at that point I don’t necessarily think we were too concerned about that.”

“You would not know there was a weather-related issue.”

In Montreal, shoppers jammed onto Sainte-Catherine Street, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare.

But some said Boxing Day is no longer the frenzy it once was.

Mongi Bouabane, a taxi driver for 15 years, stood outside Future Shop trying to coax shoppers into his cab.

Bouabane said it’s usually far busier.

“In the past, there was a line here for people waiting for a taxi,” he said.

“Maybe it’s the Internet. I don’t know. ”

Not everyone is comfortable buying online.

Suzanne Aya, 42, braved the crowds to save $40 on a computer hard drive.

“I need to see it in person,” she said.

The only region where Boxing Day madness was largely absent was Atlantic Canada, where many merchants are restricted from opening on the day after Christmas. Those stores are to open Friday.

With files from Will Campbell in Toronto and Benjamin Shingler in Montreal.