Category "Tech"

2Jun

Calgary, Alberta welcome Mphasis and quantum computing

by BBG Hub

Calgary will be getting hundreds more tech jobs with the arrival of tech company Mphasis.

The cloud and cognitive services provider based in Bangalore, India announced Wednesday that it would be building its Canadian headquarters in Calgary, bringing 500 to 1,000 jobs in the next two years.

The southern Alberta city will also become home to a quantum computing learning space as Mphasis partners with the University of Calgary to create the Quantum City centre of excellence.

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And Wednesday saw the announcement of Sparkle Calgary, a training facility focusing on AI and automation technology using the company’s proprietary platform.

Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday’s announcements will help further the province’s goal of economic diversification.

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“The goal is to make Alberta a force to be reckoned with in quantum computing, machine learning and AI, economically but also intellectually,” he said.

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“As the labour market shifts, workers will have the resources they need to adapt,” the premier said. “And as quantum computing, automation, and artificial intelligence mature, Alberta will become a destination of choice for investment capital and talent in those growing sectors.”

Mphasis CEO Nitin Rakesh called it “a great showcase of private-public partnership, a catalyst for tech transformation.”

Rakesh said the tech company is using similar models they’ve used in other countries, in both expansion and talent centres.

“Talent is a magnet for companies building talent at University of Calgary and here in Alberta. (It) strengthens both Mphasis and Alberta as a global technology hub, and a leader in IT, quantum computing, blockchain, FinTech, data, AI (and) in many other fields,” the MPhasis CEO said.

Rakesh said he looked forward to having the university as “an anchor for research” and development of Quantum City.


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International Energy Agency report states fossil fuel investment must end to reach climate goals


International Energy Agency report states fossil fuel investment must end to reach climate goals – May 18, 2021

“The aim is to double the fundamental research in quantum science and engineering and production of highly qualified graduates while simultaneously providing the industry facing opportunities for collaboration, company creation and technology development.”

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University of Calgary president Ed McCauley said the establishment of Quantum City shows the strength of the university as a “great research university,” akin to some leading universities in other cities.

“Today, Pittsburgh is a leading robotics hub, is a technology leader and medical cluster,” McCauley said. “That can happen here too, because as the technology and people cultivated by the quantum hub seep into Calgary, they will spin off even newer technology in new companies, until Calgary and Alberta aren’t only the energy capital.”

Rakesh added that Sparkle Calgary will try to pivot the core skills that exist in the market, pointing out the existing data expertise in the oil and gas sector.

“Can we take that ability to apply data knowledge, data scientists and reskill them — upskill them — towards computing platforms that are being used for consumer data? That’s the vision that we want to use with the Sparkle Calgary platform.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Mphasis’ announcement reinforces the decision of the company to emphasize tech as a growth industry.

“It builds the platform here, and it builds the ecosystem here as Calgary continues to attract tech companies and others to this place, cementing our spot as a centre for innovation and digital technology in the world, as per our economic development strategy Calgary In The New Economy,” Nenshi said.

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The mayor added that the latest tech company announcing it plans to have its headquarters in Calgary is another signal for a demographically young city.

“It really is a signal, to young people in particular, that Calgary remains a place of great innovation, great entrepreneurship, a place where you want to make a living and a place where you want to make your life.”




© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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30Jan

The 5-minute shopping spree. How robots are turbo-charging your online orders – National

by BBG Hub


Click to play video 'Is Canada keeping up with automation?'







Is Canada keeping up with automation?


Is Canada keeping up with automation?

Grocery giant Sobeys has bet on big tech with a massive new warehouse in Vaughan, Ont.

Its robotic, automated warehouse is the only one of its kind in Canada, and it’s the launching pad for automated online grocery home delivery across the greater Toronto area.

The robots manoeuvre their way around a giant warehouse, called “the hive,” moving at an astonishing speed of four metres per second.

“By centrally controlling everything in this automated warehouse, we have better control over the freshness and the quality. We know everything coming in and we know everything going out,” said Sarah Joyce, senior vice president of e-commerce at Sobeys.

“It takes two years to build a facility like the one I’m sitting in. It’s a $100-million investment.”

From an outside perspective, it’s easy to say Sobeys lucked out in its timing. After all, the pandemic forced millions of Canadians to stay home and work remotely.

Pre-COVID-19, shopping online for groceries represented just one per cent of all Canadian grocery sales. It just wasn’t something Canadians were used to doing. Sobeys is aiming to push that number up to five per cent, and eventually 10 per cent.

The company faced a choice two years ago. To distinguish itself from its competitors, it needed something big. So it invested $100 million in new technology and a platform created by Ocado, a British company known for automated warehouses and online grocery delivery.

“With the robots, they can pick a 50-item grocery order in five minutes. That compares to about 50 minutes that it would take someone walking around a store to pick an equivalent order,” Joyce told Global News.

Sobeys’ warehouse opened in the middle of the pandemic in June, just as e-commerce sales were soaring. Those sales grew 241 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same period the year before.


Sarah Joyce, senior vice president of e-commerce at the Voilà by Sobeys Customer Fulfilment Centre in Vaughan, ON.


Sobeys

The company is planning to open three new fulfilment centres — a second one in Montreal, and two others in Western Canada.

The automated warehouse uses aspects of artificial intelligence, robotics and big data in everything from the website and mobile app to the facility’s robots and finally the routing and logistics to get orders where they’re supposed to go.

Humans do the grocery packing, while the robots sort and restock.

The process is a prime example of the possibilities offered by automation and innovation. Sobeys’ automated warehouse is the “fourth” industrial revolution in action. Industry 4.0, as it’s known, is all about automation, machine learning, robotics and artificial intelligence.

Is Canada ready? 

Canadian industry is lagging behind global leaders when it comes to automation, according to warehouse automation consultant Ben Angel.

Angel says companies, notably Amazon, along with other commercial and industrial players in the United States, Europe, China and Japan, are automating so fast that they risk leaving their Canadian competitors in the dust.

“Canadians are slow to innovate,” and in part, he says, that’s because of the luxury of being next to the world’s biggest economy.

“We typically have a ready-made market, the U.S., where we’re still going to be profitable, but we don’t necessarily have to spend money at the warehouse level (to automate).”

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He says that, 20 years ago, the majority of robots in the country could be found in the auto sector. But even as Canadian industry modernized, its warehouses in large part have not kept up.

It takes a tremendous amount of technology and investment to transform a supply chain so that a product ordered online can get delivered to a customer’s house in one to two days, or in some cases, less than one day, compared to three or four days.

And yet, Angel says, “you go into most warehouses, it’s full of forklifts.” Replacing those forklifts with robots that can do the work more quickly and efficiently creates cost savings. That allows companies, like Sobeys, to scale their e-commerce in ways that would have been far more expensive otherwise.

The power of education

One area where Canada is innovating and keeping pace is education. Canadian colleges and universities produce some of the best students in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics and engineering, attracting talent from around the world.

That emerging talent pool, says Shaun Ghafari, the associate dean of the faculty of applied sciences and technology at Humber College in Toronto, is needed to address the huge demand for highly skilled workers.

“The stakes are very, very high here because we’re talking about global competition, and a lot of companies, countries in the world, are ahead of us,” Ghafari says.

One of Ghafari’s recent graduates, Mauricio Toigo, came to Toronto from Brazil because of the opportunities he saw to work in the field of automation in Canada.

“I love the idea of thinking about or designing a machine, thinking about a concept and developing it,” Toigo told Global News’ The New Reality.

Now a lab technologist at Humber, Toigo points out that automation will eventually be in “every single process that we do.” He points out that if customers want one-day delivery on their online shopping products, “the only way to do that, really, is with automation.”

Balancing act

This shift to robotics and artificial intelligence has led to concerns about job losses. These concerns are hardly new, and date all the way back to the Industrial Revolution in England, when textile workers destroyed machines they feared would eliminate their jobs.

“The first Industrial Revolution could have happened a lot earlier if it wasn’t for the resistance to mechanization by craft guilds,” author and economic historian Carl Frey told Global News’ The New Reality.

There is little disagreement among experts that automation will transform labour — especially routine labour that can be easily replaced by machines. This includes both routine manual labour and, increasingly, routine labour of a “cognitive” nature, including many administrative jobs.

A Statistics Canada report published last year predicted that 35 per cent of back-office workers are susceptible to losing their jobs to automation. A fifth of specialized service sector jobs — bakers, butchers and cooks, for example — and jobs in the industrial, electrical and construction trades were also at high risk of automation-related transformation.

Frey says that the Industrial Revolution similarly resulted in the widespread elimination of middle-income jobs. “Even as the British economy took off, many people didn’t see the gains from growth trickle down for seven decades,” he says.

That “hollowing out” is, once again, repeating itself.

“If you look at routine jobs, there’s been a massive decrease over the last 30, 40 years, but it has come in spurts,” says Joel Blit, an associate professor of economics at the University of Waterloo.

But focusing just on potential job losses doesn’t paint the full picture of the impacts of automation, Blit says. Many non-routine jobs still can’t be replaced by machines, and have in fact been growing.

“The thing I’m most worried about,” he says, “is potentially increasing inequality, because even after the market settles down and people find new jobs, it’s not the case that their jobs are going to be as good as their old jobs.”

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The need for speed

But none of this is an excuse not to push forward with automation — and fast.

All the experts whom Global News spoke with agreed that automation will make Canada better off, and that Canadian companies and governments have to pick up the pace to stay competitive with the rest of the world.

Sobeys says that far from resulting in a net loss of jobs, automation is creating new jobs to do tasks around the machines that have not been automated, including servicing them. “We hired over 450 people to complement the automation,” says Sarah Joyce at Sobeys.

It’s clear that automation is replacing many tasks. But many others are also being created for human workers. The unanswered question, therefore, isn’t simply whether jobs are lost. Instead, it’s whether there are good, stable, high-paying jobs being created around the robots, or simply a lot more low-skilled, low-paid, precarious employment?

“The end result is still not so clear,” says Joel Blit, the University of Waterloo economics professor.

The big challenge with automation is figuring out how to make sure wealth gets evenly distributed throughout the economy, and not just to the highly skilled, well-paid workers at the top.

One way to ensure fairness is to have a strong social safety system, so that people have access to things like health care, or a basic income, to support them if they face economic uncertainty.

“Change is going to happen,” Blit says.

“But we also have to make sure that we have the right policies and supports in place so that all Canadians benefit and not just some.”

See this and other original stories about our world on The New Reality airing Saturday nights on Global TV, and online.




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16Nov

21-year-old Saskatoon man making waves in artificial intelligence

by BBG Hub


Over the summer, Landon Garrison, a 21-year-old computer science major, spent roughly 12 hours each day writing the code for a website he’s just launched called clevrML.

The website offers easier solutions for people looking to build artificial intelligence based programs.

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“(I wanted) to make the process of making these artificial intelligence models easier, and simpler, without having to write any code,” Garrison said. “For the code that you do have to write, if you do want to, for developers, it’s very simple, very straightforward, and pre-made. So it’s like a website builder for artificial intelligence.”

He saw what he believed to be a hole in the market, for an easier, more affordable way to offer A.I.

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“In A.I. right now there’s a trend of model sizes and computation going up, and I figure for most people it needs to go down and be more affordable for everybody,” he said. “I didn’t see any solutions for that, so I thought I’d just develop it myself.”

The site offers forecasting and text models, and image recognition, the technology used in self-driving cars.

This isn’t the first automated endeavour that Garrison had attempted, having previously built a chatbot when he first got into A.I. and coding.

“It was just a program that people could get things done with and you could talk to easily,” he explained. “Kind of like an Alexa, that’s what I was trying to make.”

Garrison believes that the sky is the limit for clevrML, and its potential uses can go as far as the end user’s creativity allows.

For him, there’s nothing he’d rather be doing than working on further developments for the program.

“From sunrise to sunset, it’s a good time to code,” he said.




© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.




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1Jul

China says US ‘oppressing’ Huawei with ‘national security risk’ label – National

by BBG Hub

China on Wednesday demanded Washington stop “oppressing Chinese companies” after U.S. regulators declared telecom equipment suppliers Huawei and ZTE to be national security threats.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday blocked the Chinese vendors from receiving subsidies from a government fund, stepping up efforts to limit their access to the U.S. market.

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A foreign ministry spokesman accused Washington of “abusing state power” to hurt Chinese companies “without any evidence.”

“We once again urge the United States to stop abusing the concept of national security, deliberately discrediting China and unreasonably oppressing Chinese companies,” said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian.

U.S. regulators say Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest global maker of telecom switching equipment, and its smaller Chinese rival ZTE Corp. are controlled by the ruling Communist Party and say they might facilitate Chinese spying.

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Huawei and ZTE deny the U.S. accusations. Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, said last year he would refuse official demands to reveal its customers’ secrets despite a law that obliges Chinese companies to co-operate with intelligence agencies.






Should Canada allow Huawei to build the country’s 5G network?


Should Canada allow Huawei to build the country’s 5G network?

The FCC said money from its $8.3 billion-a-year Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes equipment purchases for some carriers, may no longer be used to purchase Huawei or ZTE equipment.

The FCC “has designated Huawei and ZTE as national security risks,” said the agency’s chairman, Ajit Pai, in a statement. He said the companies “threaten our national security.”

The decision affects mostly small, rural carriers because major U.S. phone companies don’t use Chinese equipment.

The FCC had previously barred Huawei and ZTE from receiving other government subsidies.

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Congress enacted a law in March that will provide up to $1 billion for carriers to replace Chinese-made equipment.

The Trump administration is lobbying its European and other allies to avoid Huawei as they upgrade to next-generation, or 5G, telecom networks.

An assistant secretary of state, Keith Krach, said last week Washington might be willing to help other countries pay for 5G gear from European rivals Nokia Corp. and LM Ericsson to avoid buying Huawei technology.




© 2020 The Canadian Press




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7Jun

Online platforms scramble as content moderators in short supply amid coronavirus – National

by BBG Hub

While hundreds of thousands of companies across the country have seen work grind to a halt amid COVID-19, Chris Priebe is experiencing the opposite.

The owner of Two Hat, an artificial intelligence-powered content moderation company based in Kelowna, B.C., has never been busier helping customers including gaming brands Nintendo Switch, Habbo, Rovio and Supercell sift through billions of comments and conversations and quickly identify and remove anything harmful to users.

“We processed 60 billion last month. It used to be 30 billion. That’s how bad coronavirus is. That is at least twice the normal volume,” said Priebe in April, before monthly processing volumes hit 90 billion.

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“(Platforms) are faced with, in some cases, 15 times the volume. How can they possibly care for their audience? Because that doesn’t mean that the revenues are up 15 times or that they can afford to hire that many more people.”

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Priebe is not alone in the scramble to keep online, social media and gaming platforms safe amid COVID-19. Companies including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google have all been warning users since at least April that they are experiencing shortages of content moderators, causing a backlog in the removal of harmful posts.

The stakes are high. Record numbers of people around the globe are spending increased amounts of time at home on their favourite platforms, challenging servers and turning messaging services, social networks and comment sections into a wild west.

The situation has heightened privacy experts’ worries about the spread of misinformation and the likelihood that users will stumble upon hate speech, pornography, violence and other harmful content.






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Trump threatens social media platforms after Twitter labels tweets with fact check label

“Quite a few people are fairly dissatisfied with the content moderation process as it is…and then you add on this pandemic…You are seeing a huge increase in harassing behaviour and problematic behaviour and then having the content stay up longer,” said Suzie Dunn, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in the intersection of technology, equality and the law.

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“It’s a real challenge because content moderators are a little bit like frontline workers. They’re an essential service that we need to have at a time like this, so we would hope to see more content moderators working.”

However, unlike workers in other sectors who have been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, such a shift is difficult for many content moderators as their jobs deal with images and language you wouldn’t want kids or other family members catching a glimpse of.

“Some of them may not be able to work on certain things that they would work on in the office,” Kevin Chan, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy, told The Canadian Press.

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“They’re looking at potentially private, and sensitive things that have been reported to them and we need to make sure….that these things can be treated in the secure and private manner that they deserve.”

Full-time Facebook employees have stepped up and are taking on some of the moderating work, including from contractors who can’t have proprietary and sensitive content at home. These workers are dealing with content related to “real-world harm” like child safety and suicide and self-injury.

“There is no question this is going to pose challenges to the degree to which we can be as responsive,’ Chan said.

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To deal with the situation, Facebook has rolled out measures meant to curb the flow of COVID-19 misinformation and is focused on weeding out and removing content around terrorism and anything inciting violence or linking to “dangerous” individuals and organizations.






Introducing social media to children during the COVID-19 crisis


Introducing social media to children during the COVID-19 crisis

At Twitter, machine learning and automation is being used to help the company review reports most likely to cause harm first and to help rank content or “challenge” accounts automatically.

“While we work to ensure our systems are consistent, they can sometimes lack the context that our teams bring, and this may result in us making mistakes,” Twitter said in a blog. “As a result, we will not permanently suspend any accounts based solely on our automated enforcement systems.”

Google has also upped its reliance on machine-based systems to reduce the need for people to work from the office and said the increase in automation has many downsides, including a potential increase in content classified for removal and slower turnaround times for appeals.

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“They are not always as accurate or granular in their analysis of content as human reviewers,” added a Google blog released in March.

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This is a sentiment Priebe has encountered many times, but he has a counter-argument: “AI is not perfect but…humans are also not perfect.”

He gives the example of a child playing a game at home during the pandemic, when pedophiles might be more active online and trying to contact young people.

“You have three different humans look at the same conversation and they’re not going to give you the same answer. Some of them are going to call it grooming and some of them aren’t,” said Priebe.

Priebe believes an ideal system blends humans and AI because the latter is good at knowing what to do with obvious cases like when a user’s content is flagged almost a dozen times in a short period of time or when someone gets a message that only reads hello and hits report just to see what the button does.






Coronavirus searches trend on Twitter as experts recommend sticking to credible sources


Coronavirus searches trend on Twitter as experts recommend sticking to credible sources

“You don’t need a human to have to be looking at their screen and looking at this absolutely sexual content in front of potentially their children who snuck up behind them because artificial intelligence is going to win every time on that,” he said.

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“Let humans do what humans do well, which is deal with that middle category of stuff that is subjective, difficult or hard to understand, that the AI is not confident about.”

Regardless of how the moderation gets done, some things will always slip through the cracks, especially in a pandemic, said Dunn.

“No system is perfect.”




© 2020 The Canadian Press




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21Jan

The best time to buy things in 2020: You love to shop, so why not get the best deal? – National

by BBG Hub

If you’re a savvy shopper, chances are you like scoring a serious deal.

But between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and Travel Tuesday, it can be hard to know exactly when the best time is to make a purchase.


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So when is it a good time to buy a new phone or book that vacation?

Here, experts share their shopping tips so consumers can get the best deal possible.

Laptops, cell phones and technology

It may feel as if a new cell phone model comes out every week, but knowing the product cycle of a brand can help you save money.

Sylvain Sénécal, a marketing professor at HEC Montréal, said manufacturers often have sales around the time of a new product release. These vary based on brand, but he gives the example of Apple iPhones: when a new model comes to market, older models are often slightly discounted.

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“Maybe some retailers also have [older] products left over, so they will discount those products,” he said.

New models of electronics often come out in October or early November, personal finance and travel expert Barry Choi said. If you can hold off on buying a device as soon as it’s released, you can often get a deal on Black Friday, which is in late November.






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Tips for Thrift Store Wardrobe Shopping

“I knew that Google always had a sale on Black Friday, so I didn’t buy their new Pixel phone on launch day,” Choi said. “I waited a month and a half and I was right: it was $250 off.”

Plus, most manufacturers often scale back on deals until big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Sénécal added. This means if a TV or speaker is going to go on sale, your best bet outside of old-model sales is on these days.

“We won’t see many big discounts from brands because they’re waiting for that moment; they know that people will shop seriously during these specific days,” he said.

“There’s no need to put out discounts just before.”

Appliances

Sénécal said new appliances are often brought to the market in the fall.

This means manufacturers will often mark down existing models to make room for new ones during this time, resulting in discounts for consumers who are happy with an older make.

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Choi said you can often still score deals from brands like LG in January and February.

“If you want a discount on older models you can get a deal because a lot of merchants are trying to push out their inventory,” he explained.

Gym memberships

Gyms and workout studios will often offer new clients deals before the new year, but Choi suggests waiting until January or February before taking advantage of deals.

The reason? Many people pay for memberships in early January before discovering how often they will actually use the gym, which can be a bad financial decision.

Instead of signing up for a year-long membership on Jan. 1, try the gym or workout studio for a month to see if you like it, Choi said. Come February, you’ll know if the purchase is worth it.








How to understand your money and get a grip on your finances


How to understand your money and get a grip on your finances

“If you give it that month, six weeks, then you really get a good idea and know if you’re committed,” Choi said.

Flights and travel packages

You don’t need to book a vacation a year in advance in order to get a discount. Choi says if you’re looking for a tour, booking a season ahead is often enough for a better rate.

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For a summer tour, start searching in the spring. Likewise, any fall tours should be booked in the summer.

When it comes to airfares, Choi says airlines have sales throughout the year. By subscribing to airline newsletters, you can be notified as soon as a seat sale is happening.

“Airlines always have different deals, like Boxing Day, Blue Monday — but those are one-day events,” he said.


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Travel companies like G Adventures, however, often have sales during specific times of the year, including in January.

“Companies such as Air Canada Vacations, Sunwing [packages], they both frequently have discounts at this time of the year where you can save anywhere from 20 to 50 per cent off depending on where you want to go and what type of property you’re looking for,” Choi said.

The more flexible you are with your travel dates and location, the better. Choi said if you have a specific date in mind, like March break, you’re less likely to score a deal.

“If you’ve got some flexibility, you’ll be able to save money in some way.”

Winter clothing

Winter clothing can go on sale as early as Black Friday, but nearly every retailer clears out cold-weather gear starting on Boxing Day.

Choi said these deals often extend into February and March, meaning you can still get discounts well into the new year.

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Money123: How to build credit from scratch

The problem with waiting until January, however, is that stock is typically low. This means your clothing size may sell out in December, so waiting to save a bit more money on a further markdown will be useless.

Choi said it’s best to buy winter clothing as soon as it’s reduced so you get what you need.

Late December and early January is also a great time to buy any winter sporting equipment, he said. This can include skis, snowboards and skates.

“A lot of merchants are again trying to clear them out as they’re trying to bring in bikes for the spring,” he said. “They want to get rid of the excess stock, and of course, that means big discounts.”

Holiday decorations

Come Dec. 26, Christmas-related items typically go on sale. These include wrapping paper, decor and holiday-themed gift sets.


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The same goes for other holidays, like Valentine’s Day or Easter, when retailers clear out candy, gifts and cards.

Choi previously told Global News that anything a store has overstocked for the holidays is a good option as well, which could include clothing, toys, video games or electronics from big box stores.

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“Quite often, you see big sales on those items because they’re just trying to clear everything out that they didn’t sell for over the holidays.”

Pro tips

For online shopping, Choi suggests using a browser extension like Honey or Dealhack. These tools scan the internet for deals and promo codes and automatically apply relevant discounts to your purchase.






Money123: Retail tactics that get you spending


Money123: Retail tactics that get you spending

You can also sign up for retailers’ newsletters to get notifications when they are having sales, Choi said. Sometimes brands will even send out discount codes to subscribers or special offers.

Sénécal warns, however, not to get too spend-happy on days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. While you can certainly score some great deals, many items won’t be marked down as significantly as the select, promoted products are.

“The idea is to attract consumers with a couple of these big deals, but obviously there’s a limited quantity of these items,” Sénécal said.

“People go and visit the store or the website to look for that specific product, but then if it’s not available anymore, they still see all these exciting deals. So maybe they’ll settle for the second-best option that’s 30 per cent off, not 60.”

This year, we’re hoping to take the focus away from making resolutions and put it towards resetting some of the most important parts of our lifestyle: everything from our finances to parenting and more. Each day this week, we will tackle a new topic with the help of the Global News’ ‘The Morning Show.’ Read them all here.  

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.






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