Dec 03, 2019

Black Friday, yay or nay?

Consumer group Which? have found that just one in 20 discounts included in the black Friday sales are genuine, when coupled with the new era of ethical consumerism, is this annual splurge in trouble?

  • Black Friday has turned into a fortnight-long shopping spree but after hitting its peak last Friday, can we see signs of fatigue from consumers and retailers alike?
  • Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impact of waste and as a result, are moving towards sustainability, meaning retailers are faced with the challenge of selling products consumers would not normally buy and will now actively avoid.
  • The smarter businesses are those that have recognised this and do not define success by selling more products, but instead, selling better ones.

“We have repeatedly shown that ‘deals’ touted by retailers on Black Friday are not as good as they seem. Time-limited scales can be a good opportunity to bag a bargain, but don’t fall for the pressure tactics around Black Friday.” Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?

Before the chaos of Black Friday commenced, retail intelligence business, Springboard released data that predicted UK shoppers’ footfall would drop 4.5% this year. The appeal of Black Friday appears to decrease dramatically amongst consumers largely due to miss-old deals and a new interest in ethical consumerism. Consumers are now more interested in products that add value by providing benefits without contributing negatively to the environment, and as a result, retail is facing a great challenge in fitting into this way of thinking.

What is happening to Black Friday?

The concept of Black Friday is centred on creating a false demand through heavy discounts. Without even considering ethical consumerism, this concept alone cannot be helping the already struggling high street.

However, brands are now presented with an opportunity to try a different approach. For example, the smarter retailers are using Black Friday to concentrate their efforts on using this time to make consumers more aware of mindless purchasing. They are doing this through donating sale profits to charities, participating in giveback schemes and generally contributing to causes their consumers believe in.

The future will only see sustainability continue to influence consumers’ decision-making. Spending money on products without a genuine reason is becoming increasingly unfashionable. Let’s take a look at a few brands who are taking a stand against Black Friday.

Rei #optoutside

Outdoor brand, REI decided to change the conversation surrounding Black Friday back in 2015 with their #OptOutside movement. This campaign centred around its decision to close all of their shops on potentially the biggest shopping day of the year and instead, pay all employees to spend the day outdoors with their friends and family.

Four years on and REI have continued to develop this movement closing their doors and online page on Black Friday while paying 13,000+ employees to #OptOutside so they can make a difference. Below outlines how REI Opts to Act:

“We’re rethinking our entire business and giving all our members a way to engage in a circular economy. We’re reducing waste across the co-op and working to get rid of unnecessary waste across our industry. We’re committed to fight for life outdoors every day, so expect more plans and action from us in 2020.”

They have developed this movement further by creating an Opt to Act Plan which includes 52 weeks of simple challenges they present to consumers that will reduce their impact, encourage them to get active and make small but necessary improvements to the world.


While sustainable and ethical shopping is not new to Patagonia, this year starting on Black Friday and throughout December, the brand is allowing consumers to donate to any Patagonia Action Works group personally or in the name of a friend or family member with Patagonia matching every single donation. This can be done online, or in-store, and requires no purchase of a Patagonia product to contribute, the brand will match all donations regardless.

Patagonia has recognised that Black Friday is a day where consumers go out and purchase things they do not need and may give them to people who do not truly want them. This year, they want to encourage their consumers to give to community-based groups who work tirelessly to save clean water and air in neighbourhoods, wild animals and birds, and our oceans.

We are Tala 

Sustainable activewear brand Tala, founded by Grace Beverly is on a mission to create products that are 100% up-cycled and less than a year after its inception, the business is 92% of the way to achieving their goal.

In this video, Grace speaks to her army of 162k followers on @wearetala IGTV explaining why her brand has decided to opt-out of joining Black Friday as part of their slow down fast fashion campaign. While she recognises that Black Friday can be a great way to reduce stock from going to waste, if the company is not sustainable or ethical, then participating in Black Friday can only lead to hyper-consumption.

According to data gathered by Shopify Plus, 42% of UK consumers are planning to prioritise their holiday shopping with brands that they know are socially responsible. Therefore, as we have noticed with Grace Beverly’s company, the future retail landscape is more likely to include purpose-led campaigns as opposed to heavy discounting for future Black Fridays to align with the development in environmental awareness.