Living/Working November 23, 2018


November 23, 2018

Stores bank on Black Friday kick-starting retail rush

What began as a U.S. phenomenon has become Canada’s biggest shopping extravaganza

London Drugs store manager David Woogman has watched during the past five years as Black Friday has become a bigger sales promotion than Boxing Day | Rob Kruyt

Canadian retailers are enjoying some of the biggest-volume days for sales all year, as Black Friday week kicks off what is expected to be a banner 2018 holiday shopping season.

The shopping event characterized by huge discounts on a wide array of products started as an American phenomenon linked to the U.S. Thanksgiving long weekend but has steadily become a Canadian retail sensation that some say is now bigger than Boxing Day sales.

Moneris data showed there were 52% more sales during Black Friday week in Canada last year than during the week preceding the big blowout retail promotion.

“Black Friday has overtaken Boxing Day,” said David Woogman, who manages the London Drugs store on West Broadway near Cambie Street, and has been at the store for nine of his 38 years with the company.

“Most people in Canada are working on the Friday, so it becomes even more of an online event here. We’re going to be very big online, and we’re going to be very big in store. That’s why Black Friday goes beyond the single day and through the entire week.”

Moneris statistics show that annual spending growth Canada-wide during Black Friday promotions has slowed considerably during the past five years. The biggest jump for sales came in 2013, when Canadians spent 19.2% more on Black Friday purchases than they had the year before.

In 2015, sales growth for Black Friday purchases was 9.6% compared with the previous year’s totals. Last year, Black Friday sales countrywide were 4.5% more than in the year before, according to Moneris.

Woogman said that while Black Friday sales growth at his store last year was not as robust as the previous year, the previous four years’ sales growth during the promotion was far above what Moneris pegged as the Canadian average.

London Drugs promotions, such as discounts of up to 80%, are what drives sales, he said.

According to retailers Retail Insider Media owner Craig Patterson has talked with, consumers are likely to see bigger discounts and more retailer promotions this year than in recent years regardless of how they shop during Black Friday week or later in the holiday season, he said.

Once Black Friday sales end, Patterson said, it is likely that retailers will launch different promotions to try to keep customers from shopping elsewhere.

The result of the variety of promotions during the holiday shopping period could be sales growth of more than 10% compared with last year’s sales, Patterson said.

For the season as a whole, Canadians are expected to spend about 3.7% more than they did last year, according to PwC’s 2018 Canadian holiday outlook.

The global consulting firm surveyed Canadians and found that the average consumer intended to spend $1,563 this year.

About 58% of those surveyed intended to spend about the same as they did last year, while 25% expected to spend more, 13% expected to spend less and 4% were not sure.

What seems at odds with Canadians’ intention to spend more this holiday season is lower economic confidence among consumers, according to PwC.

While about 46% of those surveyed said that they believed the economy will be about the same for the next six months, 31% thought that the economy will do worse and only 16% thought that the economy would do better. About 8% were not sure.

Those who think that the economy will improve during the next six months said they are likely to spend more this holiday season.

About 28% of those surveyed said that the shift toward global trade protectionism might affect how much they will spend this holiday season.



Put this awesome new retro arcade on your must-do list for your next Victoria visit

Steve Webb, left, and Justin Lafreniere opened Quazar’s Arcade in Trounce Alley on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 | Photo: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

Coin-operated pinball machines and upright arcade games met a swift demise in the mid-1990s after being replaced by more sophisticated home- gaming consoles from Sega, Nintendo, and Sony.

The old-school form of entertainment has bounced back in a big way in recent years, however, with new arcade and pinball games being manufactured at consistent pace — and selling for outrageous prices.

“The average arcade game, you used to be able to get one for $500 or $600,” said Steve Webb, who co-owns Quazar’s Arcade, a coin-operated arcade in Trounce Alley in Victoria that has just opened up shop. “For one that is in good working order, you’re in the $2,000-$3,000 range now.”

Webb and Quazar’s Arcade partners, Brian Webb and Justin Lafreniere, will run the city’s only dedicated coin-operated arcade, with an 80-game inventory that includes arcade games such as Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, Burger Time, Centipede and Donkey Kong Jr., and pinball machines for rock bands Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Metallica and movies Ghostbusters and Terminator Salvation.

Quazar’s Arcade, at 1215 Government St., will have 40 machines on the floor at one time, Webb said, including more pinball machines than any arcade west of Winnipeg.

The Webb brothers and Lafreniere have spent the last seven or eight months repairing and restoring some of their vintage models, in order to get them game ready.

The lure of arcade classics has been a big talking point for gamers of a certain age, but Webb believes their core customers will be blown away by the quality of their newer units.

“One-third of the machines we have are made in the last two or three years. We do have two machines that are from 1980s, and we have a lot from the ’90s and early 2000s. That seems to be the sweet spot for pinball.”

New pinball machines often sell for north of $10,000, with some newer models fetching nearly double that amount.

Game tokens at Quazar’s Arcade are 50 cents each, which is relatively cheap; arcade games will use one token, while the majority of their pinball games require two tokens.

Three machines in the shop cost three tokens. “Those are heavily modified, premium machines, so we think $1.50 to play those is fair,” Webb said. The most desirable machine in the arcade — a 2017 Alien pinball machine that is one of 120 made — will cost players five tokens. “That’s the one that is going to bring people in. Someone will find out that we have it while they are on their cruise ship and drag their family down to play it.”

Half of their pinball collection was purchased from a collector on Vancouver Island, who provided the Quazar’s Arcade team with valuable expertise as well. Pinball, once considered a forgotten pastime, has enjoyed a big resurgence, making those with a working knowledge of the electronic innards in high-demand. Manufacturers of new pinball machines have found a lucrative market of buyers as a result, as they are easier to maintain.

“There are only a few manufacturers still making them,” Lafreniere said. “But they are making more of them than they ever have. As far as the old games go, a lot of them were probably cast out with the death of the arcade in the late ’90s, when consoles took over. A lot of machines rotted in basements, and were carried out for rubbish.

“At one point, when we first started, there was an incredible amount of machines available, but then they just started drying up. It is a growing trend. Collectors and businesses are trying to snatch these things up.”

Times Colonist


What are we reading? November 22, 2018


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

This week’s issue is its annual examination of technology, and amid much futurism is its the accessible piece, a grounded look at how robots have entered our lives and how we are learning to love them. - The New Yorker


It isn’t often that a profile of a director might make you want to see his latest film, but this deep sketch of Yorgos Lanthimos ensure I will see The Favourite. - The New York TImes.


It has something to do with a video depicting a Chinese woman using chopsticks to eat pizza and spaghetti, but whether it was social media pressure, government intervention, or company self-preservation, Dolce & Gabbana’s annual massive fashion show in Shanghai was cancelled. An overview explains the fashion faux pas. - Quartz


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Dead fish fuel to the rescue: cruise ships set to harness the power of seafood biogas to keep business afloat. - The Guardian


What’s your city’s road safety rating? - International Transport Forum


Emma Crawford Hampel, online editor:

How climate change is causing our world to shrink: “In the face of our environmental deterioration, it’s now reasonable to ask whether the human game has begun to falter—perhaps even to play itself out.” Habitable spaces are diminishing as extreme weather takes its toll; rising water levels that cause shorelines to retreat and destructive wildfires are just two examples. - The New Yorker


Tyler Orton, reporter:

B.C. Technology Report Card 2018: The province has made a notable leap relative to other jurisdictions across the country since the last report card was issued in 2016. The latest analysis dives into everything from job growth to revenue growth. It also takes the time to break down some of the more problematic issues facing the tech economy, including lack of R&D funding and the ongoing talent crunch. - BC Tech Association


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Today (November 22), a lot of the news sites I read are more or less in sleep mode because of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, so I have instead been looking at Suetonius’ The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. At the moment I am on Volume IV, which gives the lowdown on Caligula. What strikes me most about reading up on the crimes, follies and misfortunes of the Roman Empire under this particularly notorious dictator is that the experience is uncomfortably very much like reading about the crimes, follies and misfortunes that are the bread and butter of a typical news cycle in the year 2018. - Project Gutenberg


Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Encana, an oil company founded and built in Canada, has essentially “exported itself” to the U.S., where 60% of its business now resides, says the company’s founder. “A great national energy champion is leaving Canada, thanks to Trudeau,” says former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan. - National Post


The government of Alberta is making more than $2 billion in subsidies available to the oil and gas industry in an effort to use some of Alberta’s stranded oil and gas to build petrochemical plants. - CBC


One of the coolest science stories this week is about a tiny airplane that flies using “ionized wind” for propulsion. The plane, inspired by Star Trek, uses a battery and high-voltage charge to generate an ionized field that pulls the plane through the air. It’s a bit like creating a magnet out of air molecules that pulls the plane through the air. - The Guardian


Glen Korstrom, reporter

Interesting op-ed, written by Adam Morton, a visiting emeritus professor at UBC, discusses the consequences if humans were to colonize another planet.



Mortgage mathematics not adding up for older generations in B.C.

The main critique of BC NDP housing taxes has been that they breed attacks on the difficult-to-defend wealth of the longtime homeowner – that they are, in effect, thinly veiled class warfare.

But I think the data suggests there’s an even deeper issue that should concern us: generational warfare.

I’ve been reflecting on some new figures drawn from our most recent census by Andy Yan, the Simon Fraser University (SFU)  housing expert, and concluding that many of our conventional wisdoms about comfortable home ownership in the golden years deserve to be rethought.

In our case in Metro Vancouver, the nearly 95,000 homeowners aged 65 to 74 were far from out of the woods economically. Nearly one in three was still holding a mortgage.

For the nearly 51,000 homeowners aged 75 to 84, when for all intents and purposes our working lives are done, one in five remained mortgaged. And for the nearly 20,000 homeowners 85 and older, one in eight was carrying a mortgage.

Now, there are complexities galore in that data, but before we explore them, let’s agree: the simplistic picture of later-in-life comfy owners who can withstand additional taxes on their appreciating properties is a caricature.

“There is more nuance to it,” said Yan, director of the SFU City Program and an adjunct professor in urban studies. “Any policy needs to take that into account.”

We cannot know from the data the size of the mortgages, how long they have been held, their terms, what individual incomes and liabilities are, their family structures – all sorts of variables that might reframe the picture for better or worse.

Then again, neither does the provincial government, but that didn’t stop it from imposing a surtax on $3-million-plus homes that it disingenuously called a “school tax” and a secondary-home tax that it disingenuously called a “speculation tax.”

Moreover, it has failed to dampen public discourse that has vilified the older homeowner – a.k.a. the west-side Vancouverite – who benefited in the last three decades from a gradual but consistent appreciation in equity. In failing to do so, it provides an easy and politically popular target to tax.

Polls back this antagonism to the homeowner perched on the pricey property, even if the data suggests that person might be contending with debt.

As Yan said: “It is not a simple matter of retirees defending their pot of gold.”

If we work with this data, though, what we might conclude is that there are new dynamics at play that further challenge the traditional notion of retirement and repose at age 65. We are living longer, working longer and looking after our children longer. Locally, we also seem to be carrying our debts longer, and those debts are increasingly in the form of reverse mortgages that consume equity or alternative lending practices that consume more expense.

True, some seniors might be carrying a smaller mortgage in a downsized dwelling and helping their children pay theirs down. True, some seniors might be tolerably handling the costs on their late-work or retirement incomes. But that can’t entirely be the case.

The data for seniors is as surprising as the data for millennials, many more of whom are mortgage-free than one might think. The nearly one-third of the more than 6,000 owners between the ages of 15 and 24 who are without a mortgage, I would suspect, have the Bank of Mom and Dad to thank.

Only one in eight between the ages of 25 and 34 is free and clear of home debt – although nearly one in five in the city of Vancouver is so – and even that is an interesting and positive figure given the expense incurred and the long career runway ahead.

What it suggests is that policies might need to look not only at income but also at age in this era of longevity. By the way, the province’s permission for older people to defer taxes is of little solace, even if it’s the equivalent of a low-interest loan; it is still debt.

I saw a television show the other night that asserted the first person who will live to the age of 150 has already been born. I’d add: unless the debt kills you.

Kirk LaPointe is the editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.