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10 Valentine's Day Gifts for That Special Geek in Your Life

10 Valentine's Day Gifts for That Special Geek in Your Life

By Ambia Staley

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and if you're looking to earn a special place in the heart of a certain geek in your life, you may be searching for the perfect gift. A few months back, we created a list of holiday gift ideas for the geek on your shopping list. This time, we're following it up with a list of great Valentine's Day gift ideas for that special geek in your life!

1. Harry Potter - "Always" Necklaces ($6.99 - $7.99 on Amazon)

Want to show your love to your favourite Potterhead? Pick them up one of the many necklaces available on Amazon featuring this popular quote from Severus Snape. While it might be a little bit of a bittersweet gift considering the recent passing of Snape's film actor, Alan Rickman, it is still a great way to show your eternal devotion to the one you love.

2. Star Wars - I love You/ I Know Rings ($19.99 USD each on ThinkGeek)

Show your love with a matching ring set for you and your beloved geek featuring one of the most famous exchanges between everyone's OTP --besides Poe and Finn-- Han and Leia. While to most people, Han's response is completely arrogant, any Star Wars fan is sure to view it as a grand romantic gesture and love the engraved rings.

3. Doctor Who - The Doctor/ Companion Rings ($9.99 USD each on ThinkGeek)

Doctor Who fans are pretty devoted to the long-running series, and most probably have a favourite couple, whether it be Ten and Rose, Eleven and River, Amy and Rory, or Twelve and his eyebrows. Pick up a pair of these officially licensed rings -- which you can mix & match -- and you and your Valentine can be the Doctor and companion, two companions, or even two Time Lords!

4. The Legend of Zelda - Heart Container Pendant Necklace ($17.13 on Etsy)

Heart-shaped jewellery is the go-to Valentine's Day gift for many, but you can step it up with this Legend of Zelda Heart Container Pendant Necklace. In the shape of the heart containers found in Skyward Sword, you'll be doing double-duty by adding something cool to your geek's collection while showing them how much you love them.

5. Sailor Moon - Crystal Star Compact ($124.55 on Amazon)

There is an entire generation of female (and even some male) anime fans who grew up with Sailor Moon. To this day, many of them revere the manga and anime as one of their all-time favourite romances. Want to tug at your Valentine's heartstrings with a sentimental gift? Gift them with an item from the beloved story, like this detailed replica of Sailor Moon's Silver Crystal Star Compact! This compact has a quality metallic gold finish complemented with different coloured stones -- and it even comes with realistic sound effects, making it almost like the real thing. Just don't be surprised when your geek starts yelling "Moon Crystal Power, Make Up!"

6. DC Comics - Funko POP! Harley Quinn Pink Hearts Figure ($12.50 USD at Hot Topic)

Harley Quinn has always been a DC Comics fan favourite since her introduction in 1992. You can pick up this exclusive pink hearts POP! figure, which perfectly fits the Valentine's Day theme. Bonus points if you pick up one of the many Joker figures to go with her, so Harley can be with her Puddin' this Valentine's Day.

7. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ($15.17 at Chapters Indigo)

Jane Austen books have always been a literary favourite for the romantic. If your geek loves zombies and romance, they may enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded and slightly altered version of the classic tale. With the movie adaption of the novel out in theatres now, you can also score some bonus points by making a date night of it!

8. Geeky Charm Beads ($4.99 USD and up at ThinkGeek)

Pandora beads and other similar charm beads are popular with many girls -- and even some guys! Instead of picking up the normal boring beads from jewellery stores, shops like ThinkGeek offer enough geeky charms from all the best fandoms so you can potentially create an entire bracelet. Most beads fit regular leather straps as well as Pandora-brand straps, so you can mix & match should you be adding to a bracelet your Valentine already owns.

9. Heat Sensitive Pixel Heart Mug ($14.99 at HMV)

If your Valentine is a fan of The Legend of Zelda, or other classic games, they'll get a kick out of this mug. A fun and geeky twist on the typical heart-themed gifts, this mug features an 8-bit inspired heart decal that "fills up" the heart when hot liquid is poured into the mug. Heath potion and fairies may not exist in the real world, but with this mug and some hot caffeinated "potion", you or your Valentine will feel just as rejuvenated.

10. Binary Code Love Print ($21.14 on Etsy)

Want to be straight forward about your feelings with that computer geek in your life? Hand them this binary code wall print and they'll know exactly how you feel. This cool handmade print features an "I love you" message written out in the computer code with customizable pops of colour.

Bonus: For the Geek Searching for a Valentine - The Geek's Guide To Dating ($15.15 at Chapters Indigo)

Are you or a geek you know looking for a little help in the love department ahead of Valentine's Day? This hilarious guide to dating reads just like one of your favourite game guides. It's packed with walkthroughs, cheat codes, and more, all to help geeks navigate the perils of dating and love.

Are you, or is your Valentine a geek? How are you planning to celebrate Valentine's Day? What are some of your most wanted gifts? Be sure to let us know below!

Toronto-Area Goodwill Stores To File for Bankruptcy

Toronto-Area Goodwill Stores To File for Bankruptcy

By Ambia Staley

There's finally been an update on the sudden closure of 26 Toronto-area Goodwill locations last month.

In a statement made earlier this week, Goodwill Industries of Toronto, Eastern, Central & Northern Ontario's CEO Keiko Nakamura announced that the company will be filing for bankruptcy to preserve its assets. This will be done for the benefit of Goodwill's principal creditors, who are also former employees of the company. Nakamura went on to add that Goodwill will consider making a proposal to creditors that will would annul the bankruptcy and allow for some stores to reopen if approved.

The Canadian Airport Workers Union, which represents the majority of the 450 affected employees issued a statement in response that it will be "closely monitoring" both the bankruptcy and proposal. It also supports a restructuring process that will help get its employees working once more.

Goodwill Industries International made a statement last week, calling the Toronto-area closures "egregious acts" that are not in compliance with membership standards. As a result, Goodwill Industries of Toronto, Eastern, Central and Northern Ontario has been disaffiliated with the brand, and no longer have the right to use the Goodwill name, trademark, or logo.

What do you think of these latest developments? Do you think there is hope for the Toronto-area Goodwill locations?

Tax Time Poll -- Answer These Questions and Be Entered to Win a $50 Gift Card!

Tax Time Poll -- Answer These Questions and Be Entered to Win a $50 Gift Card!

By RedFlagDeals.com Staff

RFD readers, there are a few things we're curious about as we head into tax season. We've set up a couple poll questions below, and if you respond to the polls and then leave a comment that you did, you'll be entered into a random draw for a $50 gift card.

We'll draw a random winner from the comments below on March 15, 2016 and notify them by email. Unfortunately, this contest is not open to residents of Quebec.

Danier Leather Enters Insolvency After $27 Million in Losses

Danier Leather Enters Insolvency After $27 Million in Losses

By Kate Musgrove

Danier Leather has announced that they've entered insolvency. Insolvency is intended to protect the company from creditor lawsuits as it seeks a buyer. It's not bankruptcy, but if they can't find a buyer, that will be their next step.

Danier Leather lost $27 million between 2014-2015, with nearly $20 million of that loss occurring in 2015 alone. They have stated that they expect to lose even more money in 2016, although they specify that they have enough cash to keep their stores open and pay staff as they work towards a solution.

What do you think went wrong for Danier Leather? Jeffery Wortsman, the current CEO, said in September 2015 that Danier was "not aligned to current fashion trends" which led to significant sales decline and a build-up of unsold inventory.

Roll Up The Rim Has New Ways to Win!

Roll Up The Rim Has New Ways to Win!

By Thomas Kenzaki

It's my favourite time of year! No, I don’t mean Christmas. It’s Roll Up The Rim time at Tim Hortons. This once a year event is back for its 30th anniversary and I was happy to discover that this time around, there are more ways to win than ever before!

Besides checking under the the rim of your cup to see if you won, you can also play Rrroll Up Replay and Rrroll Up At Home. Rrroll Up Replay is an online way to win prizes by simply registering for an account and rolling up virtual rims. You can get a new virtual cup every hour with a maximum of five at a time. Rrroll Up At Home, which is new this year, allows you to upload receipts from your Tim Hortons home line of products (Tassimo discs, Keurig K-Cups, teas, ground coffees, etc.) and receive a chance to win a prize.

Long gone are the days where the best prize you could win was a box of Timbits. These days you can win some serious stuff! This year you can win a 2016 Honda Civic, a LG 4K TV, Tim Hortons gift cards and so much more. All in all there are over 250,000 prizes to be won (although the best prize most of us will see is a free coffee or donut).

Tim Hortons is a daily staple for a lot of us already so why not take a peek under the rim. You never know, your cup might just be a winner. Just think of all the sleep you’d lose if you threw away a grand prize winning cup.

For a complete list of rules, check out the official Roll Up The Rim To Win website. And be sure to leave us a comment telling us the best prize you’ve ever won playing Roll Up The Rim!

A Recurring Nightmare: Common Recurring Charges and Tips on How to Control Them

A Recurring Nightmare: Common Recurring Charges and Tips on How to Control Them

By Simon Hung

Recurring payments have exploded in popularity over the past few years, partly due to the growth of low-cost monthly subscriptions services. While a few dollars per month may seem like a nominal amount to pay for a service, the total cost of all of your recurring charges can easily add up to hundreds of dollars per year if you don’t keep track of them.

This is especially true with yearly subscriptions, as it’s easy to forget about the charges, like if you're one of 2 million people who still pay for AOL dial-up Internet. To help you navigate recurring charge treachery, we’ll be listing a few common ones that may be sneakily taking money from your bank balances. The main focus will be on charges that are relatively easy to avoid, control or cancel, rather than charges that are ridiculous and unavoidable, such as hydro delivery charges or monthly utilities bills.

Video Streaming
Common examples: Netflix, shomi, CraveTV, Twitch.tv, Vessel

Some video streaming services don't offer the same content value as Netflix.

Netflix has become a staple in many households, as the prospect of having on-demand access to hundreds of films and TV shows is worth the cost. Piggybacking on its success, we've seen the rise of other video streaming platforms such as shomi and CraveTV, as well as the rise of premium sites like Vessel, a paid service where YouTube content creators can upload their videos seven days before they go live on YouTube. While they are nice services to have, the lack of content on certain platforms when compared to Netflix makes them a poor value.

Music Streaming
Common examples: Spotify, Apple Music

Whether you’re a fan of hardcore gangster rap or emotional orchestral scores, many of us can’t live without music. Streaming services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music have grown to prominence to give you an almost unlimited library of music for a monthly fee. While these services are convenient, it can cost upwards of $20.00 per month and can quickly decimate mobile bandwidth limits. If you can live with ads every few minutes, consider sticking to the free version of Spotify to save money, even if they don’t have any Taylor Swift songs.

Sports Streaming
Common examples: MLB.TV, NHL Gamecentre Live, NBA League Pass

Access to live sports has been the Achilles heel for many cord-cutters, as sports programming is largely unavailable outside of cable. However, there are popular streaming services such as MLB.TV and NHL Gamecentre Live that charge upwards of $200.00 per month to stream live games. Promotions (such as MLB.TV’s $3.99 USD offer) make these services irresistible to sports fans, but it’s important to remember that many of these have automatic renewal clauses when you sign-up. For example, if you took advantage of the MLB.TV promotion this past September and haven’t cancelled, you will be charged $129.99 USD for the upcoming season unless you cancel.

In-Game and In-App Purchases
Common examples: free-to-play games, DLC content

In-app purchases (screen shot from The Simpsons: Tapped Out) can get pricey very quickly.

One of the sneakiest of charges today may be in-game and in-app purchases, whether it be a $1.00 upgrade in a free mobile app or $20.00 downloadable content in a full-priced console game. The “free-to-play, pay-to-win” platform has made it incredibly easily (especially for kids) to absentmindedly pay for in-game upgrades that can easily add up if left unsupervised. Even Kanye West has ranted about the ease of racking up substantial bills via in-app purchases.

Telecom
Common examples: hardware rentals, overage charges

It’s no secret that many Canadian telecoms have been accused of using questionable billing tactics. For example, Bell removed their maligned $2.80 touch-tone fee in mid-2015, only to subsequently raise the price of all landline plans by $2.80. A common charge that can easily be avoided are hardware rental fees, such as modems, which are often leased to customers for upwards of $15.00 per month. It’s almost always more cost-effective to purchase a modem outright or even buy one from a third-party store rather than pay a monthly fee for the duration of your service.

Banking
Common examples: balance charges, withdrawal fees, ATM use fees

Like telecoms, banks are notorious for charging exorbitant fees to their customers, including balance charges if you're below a certain threshold, withdrawal fees on certain accounts and ATM fees if you use an unaffiliated machine, just to name a few. Banks sometimes offer leniency depending on account standing and how long you've been a customer, though fees and charges can only sometimes be waived at the discretion of your branch manager. The best practice is to be wary of your account limits to avoid potential charges and asking your branch to waive fees is a good idea if you're unexpectedly charged.

Paper Statements
Common examples: utilities bills, ATM receipts

If you’ve received a paper statement in the mail in the past few years, there’s a considerable chance that you may be paying for this once-free service. Most major telecoms, including Rogers and Bell are charging upwards of $5.00 per month if you wish to have a paper bill delivered. Many cite environmental concerns for the charge, which is noble, though it’s likely that the charge goes directly into their pockets, which is blasphemy. You can usually remove this fee by updating your account online or calling customer service.

Computer and Web Services
Common examples: free trials, Amazon Prime, LinkedIn Premium, Windows 10 Solitaire

At one point, you've probably signed up for a free trial for a product like an Internet security suite and had to enter your credit card information. It's important to read the terms of any free trial you sign up for, as many trials that require credit card data are usually auto-renewal subscriptions that will charge you once the trial period is over. There are a plethora of web services that charge a small monthly fee to seem insignificant, such as LinkedIn Premium or even Solitaire on Windows 10, but if you don't use them, cancel it.

Donations
Common examples: charitable donations via phone or Internet

We’ve all been approached by one -- those friendly, clipboard-wielding charity representatives on the street who compliment your clothes and ask about your day, only to pull you aside and give a sales pitch about their charity. While it is noble to donate to any charity, keep in mind that some charities will bill you on a monthly basis for donations. This is especially true with impulse donations made via credit card, where you may not be fully aware of the exact terms of donation.

Novelty Subscriptions
Common examples: monthly gift boxes, fruit of the month clubs, crowd-sourcing

Crowd-sourcing has become a popular method of supporting products and services in recent years and while most are simply a one-time payment, some crowd-sourcing sites like Patreon charge monthly to help fund your supported cause or product. While crowd-sourcing and other services like monthly snack deliveries or fruit of the month clubs are fun, they can become quite costly if you pay for more than one.

Tips
  • Evaluate your needs: Take a look at which services you pay for and which ones you actually use regularly. If you don't use a service often and can live without it, cancel it.
  • Budget: There are tools such as YNAB (You Need a Budget) that can help you manage your finances. While YNAB is (ironically) a subscription service, it is free for students with proof of enrollment.
  • Check twice, pay once: Examine credit card charges at least twice a month to ensure you know what you're paying for. See something unfamiliar? Google the merchant name or call your card provider for more details.
  • Set text notifications: Many online statements are not updated in real-time, but many banks (including BMO, Scotiabank and TD), allow you can set up text alerts to notify you immediately if your card is used for anything, allowing you to easily track your spending or potential fraud.
  • Look before you leap: Carefully read the payment terms when signing up or buying anything with your credit card and keep an eye out for a 'per month' or 'per year' suffix next to prices.
  • Parental guidance: Enable parental controls on your phone, tablet or console to require authentication for every in-app or in-game transaction. Teaching your kids about in-app spending can also help to reduce the damage that some kids will unknowingly cause.
  • Elephants never forget: Neither does your phone -- set reminders to notify you of any transactions that will be charged to your credit card at the start of the month to ensure that you never forget.

Save money and frustration by getting rid of unwanted services.

Ultimately, the onus is on you to prevent any unwanted charges from occurring. Keeping track of your subscription charges and everything in between can be tedious, but the stress of having an unwanted charge levied against you can be stressful. With diligence and careful spending, you can easily mitigate and control your finances to make things more manageable.

Do you have any tips or tricks you use to track your money? Let us know and share this article with anyone you know who may need help controlling their frivolous spending habits!

Lowe's Acquires Rona for $3.2 Billion

Lowe's Acquires Rona for $3.2 Billion

By Kate Musgrove

After a lot of negotiating (and an unsuccessful buy-out bid in 2012), American retailer Lowe's has bought Rona for $3.2 Billion CAD ($2.3 Billion USD). The deal was unanimously approved by the Board of Directors at both companies. Rona was founded in 1939 and has 496 stores across Canada. Lowe's has been looking to expand in Canada and independent of this acquisition has plans to open twelve new stores in Canada over the next two years.

While overall reaction to the acquisition is positive, Parti Québécois leader Pierre Karl Péladeau has come out in opposition, saying that Quebec would lose another company headquarters. However, the Canadian head office for Lowe's will be in Boucherville, Quebec, which is home to the current Rona head office.

Overall, I feel like the acquisition is a net positive for Canada, although I suspect that the low Canadian dollar could encourage more foreign-based acquisitions in the Canadian market in 2016. Who do you think could be next?

8 Tips for Travelling on a Low Loonie

8 Tips for Travelling on a Low Loonie

By Ambia Staley

With the Canadian Dollar the lowest it's been in years, and projections to go even lower in the next year, you may be thinking about putting off your yearly travel plans. However, there's no need to pack away your suitcases and sun hats just yet! With a few modifications, as well as some careful planning, you can make the most out of your vacation without going broke. We've collected a few simple tips that will help you save on your next getaway.

1. Follow the deals: Don't care where you go, as long as it's somewhere that's not home? Follow the deals! Travel sites often post cheap vacation packages that you can snap up within your desired price point. Some airlines also hold flash sales from time to time, with great deals on flights within specific dates. Ever consider going to Iceland? Airlines such as Iceland Air and WOW Airlines encourage tourism to the small nation by frequently offering return flights for as low as $400, or vacation packages starting at $650.

2. Travel off-season: If you're set on going to a specific location, you may want to consider travelling off-season. You'll have to do a little research to find out when the off-season for your particular destination is, but it might pay off in the end. Not only are flight prices traditionally cheaper, but many local hotels and businesses tend to offer deals and discounts during these times of year in order to get people in the door.

3. Fly Smart: This is a very loaded tip, but be sure to do your research when it comes to booking flights, as it will be sure to pay off! As previously mentioned, you can save a little when flying to a destination off-season, but also consider flying on weekdays and non-peak hours, when there tends to be less demand for flights. In addition to this, if you're in no particular hurry, consider mix & matching airlines as well as transiting through other cities on your way to your destination. Thinking about going to Europe? Previously mentioned WOW Air has many low budget options for travellers willing to transit through Iceland on their way. While it may seem like a pain, these methods can end up saving you hundreds of dollars in the end!

4. Go Where the Money is: If you're worried about the Canadian dollar being so low, travel somewhere where the money is worth around the same amount, or even less than our dollar. Many countries such as Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, or Korea have currencies that are worth less, or about the same as the Canadian dollar, making them more appealing for travel and shopping.

5. Cut Corners on Packing: Many of us have a tendency to purchase everything brand new before we leave. There's no need to pick up a brand new suitcase, shoes, clothes, and toiletries before leaving. Don't have a suitcase? Borrow one from a friend or family member that isn't travelling. If you know that you'll be buying things on your trip, hold off on purchasing new clothes until you arrive -- this way you'll only end up spending money once, and not twice. Worried about airport size restrictions on liquids, so you purchase brand new travel-size toiletries every time you travel? Skip that step and head to shops like Dollarama where you can find affordable travel kits packed with small empty bottles in which you can pour your favourite shampoos and lotions to take with you on your travels.

6. Do Your Homework: This is a very important step that can prevent you from throwing away extra money. Before you leave, read up on as much as you can! Check cost effective methods to get from the airport to your hotel so you don't waste money on a taxi. I was once told by a former coworker that the first time he went to Japan, he thought Narita Airport was in Tokyo, so he could just take a taxi into the city. Fun fact -- it's actually in the prefecture next to Tokyo, so he ended up shelling out $200 right after landing in the country. It also helps to make sure that your hotel is conveniently located. If you find a steal on a hotel room, but all the tourist locations you're looking to visit are nowhere near it, you might end up tossing away more money on transit costs, than you ended up saving on accommodation. Not only can doing your homework beforehand make things a lot cheaper, but it will make your stay a lot less stressful.

7. Don't go alone: I prefer travelling alone, so I understand the appeal, but it might not be the most cost effective option for those who want to save. Instead, bunk up with someone you know! You can split things like hotel costs or apartment rental costs, as well as cab fare. A family I know used this method when travelling to the US a few years ago. They made the trip with another family and were able to split costs on transportation to and from the airport as well as the cost of their hotel suite.However, each family went their separate ways during the day to enjoy their vacation. It ends up saving a ton of money, and you may find this more appealing than cheaper accommodation options like hostels.

8. When all else fails, take a staycation: If you're uneasy about the monetary conversion, one place to know exactly how much you're spending is within your own country. We're lucky enough to live in a huge country with very diverse areas. Hit the road and stay in a nearby city for a few days. Check airlines like WestJet and Air Canada on a weekly basis as they usually have flash sales on Canadian airfares. You can even hit the rails and spend a few days aboard a Via Rail sleeper car. Via Rail typically offers lower fares on select short distance and long distance routes every Tuesday that can save you a few dollars. If you've got a friend or family member in another city, call them up and ask to crash on their couch for at least part of your trip for even more savings!

Are you going on vacation this year? What are some of your money-saving travel tips?

Rogers, Bell and TELUS to Raise Prices in Response to Weak Dollar

Rogers, Bell and TELUS to Raise Prices in Response to Weak Dollar

By Simon Hung

Prepare to pay more for your monthly cell phone bill in the coming months if you plan to sign or renew a contract, as the ‘Big Three’ (Rogers, Bell and TELUS) will be raising the price of cell phone plans in the coming months.

All three telecom providers will be implementing a $5.00 increase for new and renewing contract subscribers. Customers bringing their own devices will also see a reduction in savings between $10.00 and $15.00. This practice is nothing new for consumers, as price hikes and high cell phone bills have been common in Canada for years, as the Big Three control 95% of the wireless market in Canada and have many customers at their mercy.

The increase will roughly amount to an extra $60.00 per year for customers and unsurprisingly, all three companies are citing a weaker dollar and higher operating costs for the increase. Rogers CEO Guy Laurence explained in a conference call, “The price increase isn’t substantial. I would describe it as an appropriate level…it’s pretty clear across the industry that with rising costs, prices are going to go up.”

Putting on our tin foil hats, it’s difficult not to see these moves as collusion and the use of the weak dollar as a convenient excuse. Rates in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec do not appear to be rising, as those happen to be the provinces where there is a fourth telecom provider with a large market share in competition with the Big Three -- SaskTel, MTS and Vidéotron, respectively. Coincidence? We think not.

What makes the move more suspicious is the fact that all three companies have been engaged in foreign currency protection initiatives for many years, which helps mitigate the impact of fluctuating currencies.

We aren’t the only skeptics, as Geoff White, counsel to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, has suggested that the rate increase is motivated by a desire to increase revenues rather than to recover costs, “It’s a little suspicious that these big, sophisticated, publicly-traded companies that are in the business of managing their risk and maximizing profit are blaming something that they likely foresaw.”

This isn’t the first price increase we’ve seen because of a weaker dollar. Earlier this month, Apple increased the price of apps in the Canadian App Store, and the price of electronics and commodities like cauliflower and celery have been climbing due to higher import costs. We’re also likely see a higher cost of goods in the future until the dollar stabilizes. Time will tell if these increases will continue or if the cost of goods will actually go down if and when the dollar recovers.

Are you outraged? Indifferent? Rushing to get a new retention plan before the increase happens? Is it time for consumers to speak with their wallets and stop paying exorbitant fees for telecom services? Let us know how you feel and how you plan to cope.
Sears Canada to Close More Stores

Sears Canada to Close More Stores

By Ambia Staley

There's a bit more unfortunate news in the Canadian retail front this week, as Sears Canada Inc. announced plans to close more stores in an effort to cut costs.

The news is just the latest in Sears' attempts to turn around the struggling company. The retailer closed some of its stores (including their flagship location in Toronto's Eaton Centre) back in 2014, and recently announced plans to close select Sears and K-Mart locations south of the border. Sales for the company have been on the decline over the past few years, with an exception of a 0.4% increase in the third quarter of 2015.

Brandon Stranzl, executive chairman of Sears Canada has said that Sears is determined to turn around core business and remain in as many locations as possible, but doesn't rule out additional closures or downsizing in the future. Stranzl's goal is to fix Sears as a "mall-based department store" and Sears Home as a "destination for home products" -- however he also noted that this statement doesn't save all department store or Home locations for being on the chopping block.

At the moment, there is no final decision about which specific stores will be see their doors close. Stranzl has noted that it would be inappropriate to talk about specific store locations until "all arrangements are finalized."

Are you a regular Sears shopper? What are your thoughts on this latest cost-cutting effort from the company?

Select Britax Stollers, Car Seats, and Travel Systems Recalled

Select Britax Stollers, Car Seats, and Travel Systems Recalled

By Ambia Staley

Health Canada and Transport Canada have both issued a notice that select models of Britax Car Seats and Strollers are recalled as of January 21, 2016. The baby products are being recalled due to a possible choking hazard presented by the foam padded arm bars.

The recalls may not come as a surprise to some, as various brands of strollers and car seats from brands including UPPAbaby have been recalled over the past year for the same hazard presented by the bumper bars.

There are quite a few different models included in this recall, including the B-Ready Stroller and B-Ready Top Seat Accessory manufactured between April 1, 2010 and December 31, 2012. A recall has also been issued on the B-Safe 35 Travel Systems manufactured between October 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015.

While there have been reports of children biting off the foam, there have so far been no reports of injury in Canada. Britax, the company which manufactures these items, are fully cooperating with the recall. If you own one of the included models, you are advised to stop using the foam bar immediately and to contact Britax for a fabric-covered replacement.

Do you use strollers or car seats with foam padded bumpers? Do these recalls come as a surprise to you?

Lower Loonie Means Higher App Prices for iOS Users

Lower Loonie Means Higher App Prices for iOS Users

By Simon Hung

January 21 update: Price increases in the App Store have now taken effect, with apps that were formerly $1.19 now priced at $1.39.

We want to get off the loonie's wild ride. As you may have read last week, our loonie isn't doing too well.

If you're an iOS user, our lower loonie will affect you sooner rather than later, as app developers have been notified that Apple will raise their prices in the App Store within 72 hours of today (January 18). In the notice, Apple indicates that prices for apps, app subscriptions and in-app purchases will receive a price increase to offset foreign exchange rates. In addition to Canada, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and South Africa will also be levied with higher prices.

Apple has notified developers of an impending price increase in Canada and other markets.

Although no official pricing has been announced by Apple, according to this document on Apple.com, it appears as though apps currently priced at $1.19 will now be priced at $1.39, marking the second consecutive year that app prices in the Canadian App Store have been increased by $0.20.

Paid apps will reportedly start at $1.39 beginning this week.

How do you feel about the price hike or our declining loonie? Let us know how you're coping with the changes and if you have any tricks that you can share with RFDers!

Goodwill Closes 26 Stores Across Ontario Due to 'Cash-Flow Crisis'

Goodwill Closes 26 Stores Across Ontario Due to 'Cash-Flow Crisis'

By Ambia Staley

Staff and thrifty shoppers alike woke up to a surprise Sunday morning when they arrived various Goodwill locations across Ontario only to find themselves locked out with a sign in the door notifying them that stores were closed due to "unforeseen circumstances".

After more than 80 years of operation in Ontario, the non-profit, which provides affordable goods as well as access to jobs and training for many who need it, has closed 26 locations. The closures affect 16 stores, 10 donation centres and 2 offices across the Greater Toronto Area, Barrie, Orillia and Brockville. With the closures, 450 unionized employees are also left with an uncertain future. Union lawyer Denis Ellickson, who is currently working with the employees to sort out the situation, calls the closures illegal as employees should have been given a 30 day notice of the lockout.

At this time, little information is being given for the closures. Keiko Nakamura, chief executive officer of Goodwill in Toronto, Eastern, Central and Northern Ontario released a statement which in part says, "Due to a number of factors affecting the retail environment, Goodwill is facing a cash flow crisis". She goes on to state that it is a "fluid situation and Goodwill is exploring a variety of options".

No word has been given yet what the options being explored are, or whether or not this is a permanent or temporary situation.

Do you regularly shop or donate to Goodwill? Do any of these closures have an affect on you?

The Darkest Timeline: Canadian Dollar Forecasted to Fall Below $0.60 in 2016

The Darkest Timeline: Canadian Dollar Forecasted to Fall Below $0.60 in 2016

By Simon Hung

This is the darkest timeline. As reported by CBC News, David Doyle of investment bank Macquarie Capital Markets Canada Ltd. has forecasted that the Canadian dollar will reach an all-time low of $0.59 per US Dollar by the end of 2016.

This grim outlook should not be taken lightly, as the same analyst also predicted that our dollar would fall below $0.70 in February 2015, which it did this past week for the first time in over a decade.

Remember when 1 CAD was worth more than 1 USD? Pepperidge Farm RFD remembers.

Back in August, we asked our readers how the weak dollar has affected spending habits. Over 40% of respondents said they’re sticking to Canadian retailers and avoiding foreign ones.

There are thousands of ripple effects that will impact every industry should the dollar continue to decline. For consumers and savvy shoppers, the costs of manufacturing and importing will increase, which will inevitably lead to higher prices for goods in Canada, from cauliflower in your grocery store to iPads at the Apple Store -- this is especially relevant in the technology sector, as the Canadian prices for products such as the iPhone 6s, Nexus 6P and Oculus Rift were grossly inflated by their manufacturers to offset the exchange rate and import costs.

Online shopping options will be even more limited, as Canadian shoppers will need to pay extra attention to sites priced in foreign currencies and avoid potential import fees. An extreme repercussion may even include the withdrawal of more retailers from the Canadian market.

The biggest gut punch to consumers may come in the form of weaker sales at Canadian retailers. If this past Black Friday and Boxing Day were a precursor, marquee sale events will suffer with an even weaker dollar, where many RFDers will revel and reminisce of days when our dollar was above parity.

Has the declining dollar changed the way you shop? Do you expect David Doyle’s prediction to become a reality? How has the lower dollar affected you? Is this irrelevant to you because you have the winning Powerball ticket? Let us know what you think about the declining dollar and the potential consequences in the comments!

CES 2016 Roundup: Our Favourite Products

CES 2016 Roundup: Our Favourite Products

By Simon Hung

The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was held last week in Las Vegas, showcasing some of the latest technology products. Many of us at the RFD office were following the event closely to get a glimpse of some of the newest products that we may see in the near-future.

Unfortunately, we invested billions in the 1990s Beanie Baby craze so we weren’t able to send any representatives to cover this year's show, but that won’t stop us from recapping some of the noteworthy products that stood out for us. Check out our list below of our favourite products that were showcased at this year's CES.

Appliances - Keurig Kold

You've probably used a Keurig coffee machine at least once in the past few years. Take that same concept and include the ability to make carbonated drinks, including officially-licensed Coca-Cola, and you have Keurig Kold. While the Kold has been available since September, Keurig showed off the machine at CES to generate some buzz. However, it doesn’t come cheap -- the machine itself is available for $399.00 and a package of four one-time-use pods is $5.99. We have a few soda-addicts in our office, and as cool (or should we say, kold) as this product is, we’re all sticking to the canned stuff.

Honourable mentions: Samsung's connected smart fridge, PicoBrew home beer maker

Computers - Razer Blade Stealth Ultrabook

With ultrabooks and super-thin laptops growing in popularity, it’s been tough to strike a balance between portability and power. We’d love a laptop that looks as sexy as Apple’s single-port MacBook, but many of us don’t want to sacrifice raw power for a thin profile. Starting at $1599.99, Razer unveiled their Razer Blade Stealth Ultrabook at this year's CES, with a beautiful industrial design and enough power to please enthusiasts. Plus, they also unveiled their version of an external graphics card enclosure, the Razer Core, capable of housing a full-sized graphics card that you can connect to your laptop via USB-C or Thunderbolt to act as an external graphics card for gaming and graphics-intensive productivity.

Honourable mentions: Thinkpad X1 with OLED Display, Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 with 4K Display

Expensive Gadgets - Sennheiser Orpheus Headphones

Sennheiser headphones are among RFD's favourite brand of headphones -- the HD 598 sale threads are always extremely popular. The Sennheiser Orpheus may be just a little bit out of our price range, though, because they're $50,000 USD. While we're sure they sound incredible, at that price, we'd rather own one pair of HD 598's and have an extra $49,800 in spending money. Unless one of us wins the Powerball lottery.

Honourable mentions: Segway Advanced Personal Robot, Oculus Rift Consumer Model

Future Technology - LG Rollable OLED Display

This isn't the first time we've seen a rollable display prototype from LG, but they showcased an 18" rollable OLED display this year at CES. While we are closer than ever to the technology becoming an everyday reality, it'll still be a while before the technology matures, evidenced by the latex gloves required to handle the prototype and the secretive nature of the technical aspects, but once these types of displays become mainstream, it'll be neat to see how they're deployed in our lives.

Honourable mention: Faraday Future FF01 Supercar Concept

Home - Parrot Pot

You don’t need to be a botanist to determine the proper water levels and soil moisture that are ideal for your plant. The Parrot Pot is a smart flower pot that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to let you know the current condition of your plant and automatically waters the perfect amount of water at the proper intervals to keep your plant healthy -- perfect for keeping your plant watered while on vacation or for those who can't keep a plant alive for an extended time.

Honourable mention: Inail Custom Nail Printer

Televisions - LG OLED 4K TV

OLED displays are probably the best-looking displays on smartphones and tablets, with phenomenal colour-accuracy and excellent black levels, colours are vivid and pop off the screen. LG introduced an unbelievably-thin 4K OLED television this year, with almost non-existent bezels and an OLED panel that has us salivating. The only problem -- it starts at $6999.99 USD.

Honourable mentions: LG 98" 8K (!) TV, Sony 4K HDR Android TV

Toys - Sphero BB-8 Droid with Force Band

We have a few Star Wars mega-fans at the RFD office, and each one would love to own their own BB-8 droid. The droid itself has been out for a while, with controls and movement done via a smartphone and accompanying app. Sphero has updated the toy with a Force Band, a wristwatch accessory that enables you to control the droid with your hand -- or the Force. No pricing has been announced yet, but the updated toy should be coming out later this year, which also means there should be discounts to the original model. The updated toy also includes sand-coloured accents, giving it a weathered look and to presumably prevent Anakin Skywalker from stealing your cool little droid.

Honourable mentions: Parrot Disco, LEGO WeDo 2.0 Robotics Kit

Travel - Swagway Swagtron

First thing's first -- we're hoping they change the name of this product. Then again, we're also hoping the word "swag" gets eradicated from the English language. We also need to stop calling these products hoverboards -- they don’t hover and have wheels. They are not hoverboards! With that out of the way, these self-balancing scooters are becoming more popular and should dramatically decrease in price as they become more predominant. This model shown off at CES improves on a lot of safety concerns of these scooters, including being housed in a fire-retardant shell and using rubber footpads for improved stability. Bluetooth speakers are also built-in, so you can sound just as obnoxious as you look while cruising the streets.

Honourable mentions: BMW Mirrorless i8 Spyder Concept, BMW Motorcycle Helmet with Built-In HUD

Was there a particular product that caught your attention at CES? Interested in any of the products we've listed above? Afraid of the robot apocalypse? Let us know in the comments and share this story with any tech-savvy people in your life!

HBC Buys Gilt Groupe for $250 Million

HBC Buys Gilt Groupe for $250 Million

By Kate Musgrove

Here's some interesting retail news -- HBC has purchased Gilt Groupe for $250 million USD. Gilt Groupe, founded in 2007, was one of the first online flash sale sites. They currently have about 6 million members. While the purchase price of $250 million might seem high, it's a pretty big drop from the company's peak value -- Gilt Groupe was valued at $1 billion USD as recently as 2011.

So far it seems like the main integration point for Gilt into HBC will be via the Saks off Fifth stores. There are currently 71 Saks off Fifth locations in the US with up to 20 planned for Canada. The first Saks off Fifth store opens in Canada this spring, with locations slated for CrossIron Mills in Alberta and the Outlet Collection at Niagara; Tanger Outlets and Vaughan Mills, all in Ontario. The intention is to start by allowing customers to make Gilt returns at Saks off Fifth and eventually open Gilt concept shops inside Saks off Fifth locations. Currently, Gilt is anticipated to generate about $500 million in sales in 2016.

McDonald's All-Day Breakfast Comes to Canada After All

McDonald's All-Day Breakfast Comes to Canada After All

By Thomas Kenzaki

How many times has this happened to you? You arrive at McDonald’s right around 11 AM in the morning, step up to the counter to order a delicious McMuffin combo but are then told that breakfast is no longer being served.

What if I told you that one day this would no longer be a problem? That you’d be able to arrive at 11:30 AM, 3 PM or even 9 PM and still be able to order breakfast. This may soon become a reality, but there’s a catch!

Unlike in the US where McDonald’s has been rolling out all-day breakfast in regular restaurant locations, Canada is taking a different approach. What McDonald’s Canada has decided to do is launch standalone McCafe locations as part of a pilot project. The first two locations are now open in downtown Toronto. You can find them in the newly renovated Union Station and in the Exchange Tower.

Going with the cafe theme, you won’t be able to order Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets or even French Fries at these new McCafe locations. But you can get breakfast, including classic McMuffins, BLTs and Egg LTs along with their full range of McCafe beverages. If you're not in the mood for breakfast, they have McFlurrys. There are also brand new items such as an Apple, Brie & Honey Croissant (even more delicious than it sounds), an Apple Walnut Salad, a Savoury Chicken Noodle with Herbs soup and much, much more -- go ahead and view the full menu right here! Did I also forget to mention that you can order all of this using self-serve touchscreen kiosks?

A selection of the ready-to-eat items available at McCafe

As a self-proclaimed McDonald’s super fan, I can personally say that both the quality of the food and the service at these new locations far exceeded my expectations. With any luck we’ll be seeing these expand across Canada soon.

Have you been to one? Did you love getting an after-breakfast McMuffin? Do you want a McCafe location to open in your neighbourhood?

Esprit is Returning to Canada in 2016

Esprit is Returning to Canada in 2016

By Ambia Staley

With 2015 being the year Canadians lost a series of retailers (Target, Future Shop, and Blacks to name a few), it seems 2016 is starting off to be the year of retail comebacks. Recently, the international fashion brand Esprit announced plans to return to the Canadian retail market.

Founded in San Francisco in 1968, the casual clothing brand rose to popularity in the 1980s. Unfortunately by 2011, the brand seemed to lose favour with North American shoppers, causing the company to pull out of both Canada and the US later that year in order to focus on the European and Asian markets. Since leaving the Canadian market, Esprit has had a major overhaul, which has lead to its success in over 40 countries and 900 retail locations. With such success in the international market, it will be interesting to see how the brand will fare upon its return to Canada.

So far, Esprit has only announced that the stores are set to open spring 2016, but where they will be located is still unknown.

Boxing Day

10 Extremely Awesome, Completely Essential Star Wars Products

10 Extremely Awesome, Completely Essential Star Wars Products

By Simon Hung

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been out for over a week, and if you’re one of the few who've yet to see it, we highly recommend that you do. Before the movie released, we made a list of 10 Arguably Awesome, Completely Unnecessary Star Wars Products, with Star Wars memorabilia that are cool, but also crazy (both in principle and in price) and unnecessary.

This time, we have a list of Star Wars-themed products that are more wallet-friendly and definitely worth buying for yourself or for any Star Wars fans in your life.

10. Star Wars: Clone Wars TV Series ($89.99 on Amazon and available on Netflix)

Yes, there are episodes that centre around Jar Jar, but thankfully you can skip those.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars follows the adventures of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi between Episodes II and III. It’s a genuinely good series for fans and provides a deeper backstory for many major characters, including Padmé Amidala and Boba Fett. It’s worth noting that the TV series is one of the few remaining pieces of canon in the Star Wars mythos after Disney re-designated many older Star Wars stories as non-canon Star Wars Legends (formerly the Star Wars expanded universe) after their acquisition of Lucasfilm.

9. Star Wars Video Games

No podracing included.

The new Star Wars Battlefront has received mixed reviews, mainly due to the lack of a single-player campaign and the egregious DLC add-ons that cost more than the game itself. Nonetheless, it is a fun game to play, but if you’re not interested in online-only gameplay, there are other Star Wars-themed video games and products that are great for fans, including a Darth Vader-themed PS4 controller or older games such as Star Wars Battlefront II or Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic.

8. BB-8 App-Enabled Droid ($189.99 at Best Buy)

Poe Dameron has good taste in droids.

BB-8 is arguably the breakout star in The Force Awakens and an excellent complement to its counterpart, R2-D2, complete with the humorous sassy attitude we’ve all come to know and love from astromech droids.

7. Tie-In Merchandise

100% of Force-sensitive individuals drink water.

Whether it’s Monopoly, makeup, oranges, Frankfurters, grapes, fishing equipment, stationery or this "candy", anytime a Star Wars movie releases, you can expect a few wacky products to be tied to the movie, whether they're relevant or not.

6. Metal Model Kit ($12.95 each or $46.50 for a set of 4 at Lee Valley)

Shiny!

You don’t have to be a model enthusiast or expert craftsman to appreciate these metal sets, as they’re pre-cut, require minimal effort to assemble and make perfect decorations for a desk or shelf. As an added bonus, once you’re done assembly, you’ll feel like the craftiest person alive.

5. Soundtrack (Available on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify and other music platforms)

Your ears will thank you.

John Williams is a cinema soundtrack legend and you’ve likely heard many of his musical scores over the course of your life. He, of course, also scored Star Wars and whether you’re on the bus listening to the Duel of the Fates or you’ve set your significant other’s ringtone to the Imperial March (do this at your own risk), the soundtrack to any Star Wars film is a delight to listen to.

4. adidas Merchandise (Available at adidas.ca)

Take a walk on the dark side.

In 2010, adidas released their first line of Star Wars themed shoes. At first, they were limited edition products and geared towards collectors, but since then, their Star Wars collection has expanded to include apparel and is now a regular staple in their stores for collectors and casual fans, alike.

3. The Original Trilogy ($47.99 at Amazon.ca)

Spoiler alert: Darth Vader is Luke's father.

The films that started it all -- whether it’s the original cuts or one of the multiple George Lucas “enhanced” editions from the past 20 years, owning the original trilogy is a must for every Star Wars fan in the galaxy from Tatooine to Jakku.

2. LEGO Sets (From $12.99 at the LEGO Shop or Toys R Us)

This hunk of junk made the Kessel run in 14 12 parsecs!

We mentioned the $499.99 Death Star LEGO set in our previous edition of this series, but there are also plenty of Star Wars LEGO sets available starting at $12.99 from Toys R Us or The LEGO Shop. They may not be as complex or sought-after as the Death Star set, but will still provide plenty of fun for you or your kids.

1. Your Ticket (From $12.99 at Cineplex)

You'll be happier than a Tusken Raider once you've seen the movie.

Now that the initial hype has died down, it’s an excellent time to see the movie (or see it again) without a completely packed theatre or crazed superfans who cheer throughout the entire movie. Our recommended venue would be IMAX theatre, as you’ll be able to watch the movie on a huge screen with phenomenal sound.

Still have Star Wars fever? Take a look at some of the Star Wars deals available at retailers across Canada or read our gift guide for the geek in your life! Be sure to share this with any Star Wars fans and comment below to tell us your (spoiler-free) reactions to The Force Awakens! As always, may the Force be with you.

Holiday

RFD Survival Guide to Having a Christmas Birthday

RFD Survival Guide to Having a Christmas Birthday

By Todd Weltz

According to the New York Times, December 25th is second least common birthday, surpassed only by February 29th. It's a birthday shared by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (and amazingly, his brother Alexandre), Sir Issac Newton and the man who brought us Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet. While there are definitely some benefits to a Christmas birthday -- for instance you're almost guaranteed to get your birthday off work without using a vacation day -- there are a few downsides that can make it a bummer. If there's someone in your life with a Christmas birthday, here are some tips on how to make it better.

1. On Christmas Day, wish them a Happy Birthday before wishing them a Merry Christmas.

2. Don't wrap birthday presents in Christmas paper. Please.

3. Don't make their present a combined gift for both celebrations without checking if that is okay with them. (And if you are combining, be sure to give a bigger gift than you would for just Christmas or just a Birthday.) I know Christmas can be an expensive time of year and the "extra" gift may slip your mind. But it's not really fair to give someone one gift for their birthday and Christmas when they give you a present for each holiday.

4. People often suggest using an arbitrary day to celebrate, far-removed from Christmas. It seems great in theory, but I've never done it -- I'm just not sure I want to celebrate my birthday on a different random day. If you're considering it, one popular day to do this is June 25 -- the half-birthday of anyone born on Christmas Day.

5. If possible, give the person a Christmas-free birthday one year. A few years ago a couple friends and I went to Niagara Falls from December 24th to December 26th for my birthday and just my birthday. We still exchanged presents etc. with our families before and after, but December 25th was about my birthday. It was great!