On Black Friday last year, UK consumers spent approximately £1.5 billion online. Black Friday is the day after the US Thanksgiving holiday. Known as the first day of the Christmas shopping season and one of the most profitable days of the year, the pressure for retailers to offer significant discounts is high.
Black Friday was so named as accountants use black to signify profit in bookkeeping. Whilst Black Friday in the UK isn’t renowned for being as wild as it is in the USA, PWC estimate that almost one in ten Londoners will spend over £1,000 in 2019 and the average UK shopper will spend £234 over the Black Friday weekend. However, an increasing number of brands are stepping back from the global shopping event.
Sometimes, the deals available aren’t always what they seem. To attract customers, many stores artificially inflate their prices which make discounts seem larger than they actually are, meaning products are being sold for a similar price to other times of the year. Encouraging consumers to purchase discounted goods lowers the perceived value of products and what consumers are ultimately willing to pay for quality goods. This is damaging to small producers. Local producers sell clothes at a fair price for the work and resources invested, to pay producers a fair wage and make a reasonable profit to run a sustainable business.
Many of the brands on YouK, such as Forge Denim, are boycotting Black Friday. Instead of offering discounts over the weekend, Forge Denim is donating 5% of profits from any sale to St Luke’s Hospice, a local Sheffield charity that works with people who are terminally ill, and with their families.
However, the problem of consumers expecting cheap goods and services isn’t limited to Black Friday. HebTroCo recently published a blog post explaining why they are unable to offer “free shipping”. They explain that larger companies can offer free shipping because of the huge margins they work with – their clothes are produced at low cost overseas and are shipped in huge volumes, massively reducing their costs. However, HebTroco charges for shipping their goods. The price covers the cost of packaging materials, as well as HebTroCo’s choice to support the local Post Office on Holme Street, Hebden Bridge rather than using a national carrier. Their small business has made a big impact on the viability of the small, independent post office and the jobs of those working there.
In addition to this, excessive discounts encourage wasteful consumption. Buying products simply because they are cheap supports a consumption model based on disposable and limited-use products, exacerbating the environmental consequences linked to fast fashion & fast consumption.
If you’re thinking of buying something this Black Friday, we would encourage you to take a look at the company you’re buying from and whether or not the causes they support make them a sustainable business.