TORONTO - The state of Canada's economy might still be up for debate, but the thousands of people who sought out Boxing Day bargains didn't seem too concerned with economic forecasts or growth projections.
In most parts of the country, shoppers seemed to leave any remaining economic worries at home and descended on the nation's retail outlets with wallets and credit cards at the ready - all in the time-honoured pursuit of a good deal.
And if they were lucky, they ended up like Ron Galvez: The 36-year-old Toronto man walked out of a downtown electronics store Saturday morning with a discounted set of speakers and a firm plan to keep spending.
"The real price is $299, and I bought it for $199 - a hundred bucks' discount on Boxing Day. That's good," beamed the 36-year-old.
A rainy forecast for Canada's largest city didn't seem to have any real impact on the size of the crowds - although if the mosh pit-like atmosphere in the downtown Eaton Centre was any indication, it might have driven shoppers inside in greater numbers than usual.
At some of the mall's trendier shops, people waited in cordoned-off lines to get a glimpse at the bargains inside. Some outlets, apparently not content to let their advertising speak for them, had salespeople stand outside and shout out their discounts.
Nathalia Furlan couldn't help but snap a few photos of the crowds for her friends back in Brazil.
"In Brazil we don't have these kind of things. We don't have Boxing Day," said the 19-year-old, who arrived in Canada last week to study English.
While the same post-Christmas shopping frenzy might not exist in her home country, Furlan said she approved of the Boxing Day madness. She guessed that she and her mother had spent about $400 by midday.
"It's good, because you can save a lot of money," she said. "Buying before Christmas, you spend a lot. You buy after, things are cheaper."
Across the country in Vancouver, hordes of teenagers and couples speaking a multitude of languages emerged from the shops.
"Boxing Day is the bomb! Cheap prices, cheap everything. I bought the whole store - as much as I could carry," said Jordan Daniel, 14, who came in from nearby Surrey, B.C., to start shopping at 8 a.m.
He and five friends, all carrying new purchases, said there was one purpose to Boxing Day.
"It's to spend all that money you got from Christmas on some extra stuff for yourself on the side," Daniel said. "It's like the extra ketchup on the burger."
Friends Rachael Lam and Kira McCutcheon, both 16, looking frazzled after leaving the Pacific Centre mall, said they had come out to spend their gift cards.
"I like to unwrap something, but gift cards are good because you don't have to feel stressed out about buying gifts," McCutcheon said.
"And you don't have to feel bad if you want to return it," added Lam.
Street vendor Anthony Wyder, selling toques and mittens that looked like animals, noted that because he wasn't a big box store, people checked out his stuff but moved on since he had no markdowns to offer.
Still, he's made good money in the past week and expects sales to rise as the 2010 Olympics draws nearer.
"I think the recession is definitely over... I'd definitely say people aren't as scared about spending money," he said. "People are starting to loosen their belt up a little bit."
In Montreal, Remi Sammoun, a store manager at a downtown Future Shop, was busy stuffing electronics one after another into plastic bags before handing them to deal seekers and ushering them out the door.
"It's crazy, about ten times more busy than a regular day," he said, noting the company spent a month preparing for the day. "People love the Boxing Day hype."
Amir Heni was one potential customer, but looked intimidated by the lineup snaking along the sidewalk in the late afternoon.
"The crowd makes it hard to find things," he said with a shrug. "Too many people, too many lines. It's like all of Canada, all of Montreal is out here."
In Atlantic Canada, some eager shoppers received a rude surprise when they discovered that virtually all of the big box stores in the region were closed on Saturday.
The reason? Legislation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I., and Newfoundland and Labrador prohibits large retail outlets from opening on Boxing Day.
Rosalie Sutherland said she was disappointed when she was met by empty parking lots and locked stores in Moncton, N.B.
"I thought everything was going to be open on the 26th because the flyers say there are big sales over the weekend," she told CTV. "But when you read the little, fine print, it's on Sunday."
While retail analysts believe Boxing Day will be big for retailers this year, the stores' success will also be tempered by early sales and a big push toward online shopping.
According to an Ipsos-Reid survey conducted for online payment company PayPal Canada, 41 per cent of shoppers said they planned on making some of their Boxing Day purchases over the Internet - a seven point increase over 2008.
With sales beginning in October and November this year and a big sale mentality because of the recession, "people aren't going to come and buy unless the discounts are very deep and on some pretty key enticing items," said retail analyst Wendy Evans.
Deloitte Canada analyst Duncan Stewart expected smartphones and netbooks would be big sellers in the technology sector this year.
Stewart said sales will be up year-over-year - but that's not saying much, he added, given the horrible year retailers just had.
"Boxing Day is always an important sales day. The only problem of course is that as a result of the sales, although it does significant volumes, it ain't great for profits," said Stewart.