* Friday after Thanksgiving kicks off U.S. holiday shopping
* Mall operator hoping to head off cross-border shopping
TORONTO Nov 5 (Reuters) - Cadillac Fairview, one of Canada's largest mall operators, will open nine Ontario shopping centers early on "Black Friday" in a bid to compete with U.S. retailers on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season south of the border.
In recent years, more Canadian retailers have been featuring discounts on Black Friday, the day after U.S. Thanksgiving, which falls on Thursday Nov. 22 this year. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October.
"Our retail sector has to work hard to remain competitive and keep shoppers north of the border," said Martin Wray, a vice president at Cadillac Fairview, in a release.
Many Canadians travel to nearby U.S. cities such as Buffalo, New York, or Bellingham, Washington, for day or weekend shopping trips. Prices are often lower, but shoppers can face long delays at the border and customs duties on imported goods.
To keep more of them at home, Toronto's downtown Eaton Centre, operated by Cadillac Fairview, will open at 6:00 a.m., instead of 9:30 a.m., while eight other properties will open at 7:00 a.m.
Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year for U.S. retailers.
Kelly Olive, a spokeswoman for the company, said it is the first time all nine of the malls are opening early together. In previous years some properties have opened to meet special requests from tenants.
Cadillac Fairview, owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, is one of North America's biggest commercial real estate owners and managers.
The fact that most Canadians work on Black Friday has done little to deter retailers from launching new promotions.
Last year Wal-Mart Stores Inc launched its first Black Friday-branded sales in Canada, and Sears Canada Inc ran its first Black Friday price-matching promotion two years ago.