The holiday season is fast approaching. Whether that statement fills you with excitement or dread is personal. I am usually a mixture of both but if I had to pick, probably the later. One of the reasons for that is, call me a Scrooge, but I hate the consumption overload that comes with Christmas. Particularly sale days like Black Friday, which is now extended to the whole weekend through to Cyber Monday. Again, whether you love it or hate it is all down to you. I again will choose the later.
Originally an American shopping tradition, Black Friday is the name given to the day following Thanks Giving and is often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US. The format of the day is practically identical to our own Boxing Day sales in the UK, now for better or worse many UK retailers have adopted the concept.
Many people oppose the Black Friday sales, seeing it as an Americanism that has no place in the UK. Retailers, generally never like to miss out on a marketing scheme. Avid fashion followers wait for infamous sales, eager to pick up bargains adding more clothes to already overflowing wardrobes with the lure of slashed prices and a sense of urgency.
I remember the first time I heard about Black Friday. It was my first year living in London at 22 years old. I felt obliged to go down to Oxford Street and bag myself some bargains after work. What? I had no clue, I definitely didn’t need anything, but part of me felt I should be there shopping, almost guilty for missing out. That is clever marketing if I ever experienced it.
What is it Black Friday All About?
Black Friday has routinely been the busiest day of shopping in the US since 2005. Taking sales up from $50.9 billion, in one day. Many stores can pull themselves out from red and into black profits in this one day, sometimes they are reliant on the business to do just that. Many derivative products are manufactured specifically for Black Friday sales, their destiny always to be rummaged for in “bargain” bins
This day draws large crowds in the US, often causing small stampedes and mass hysteria within stores and sometimes even violent behaviour. Seriously, Black Friday comes with a health warning. Sadly, I am not joking people have been injured and even died. This behaviour ironically most likely contrasts heavily to the previous day, spent celebrating gratitude with family and friends.
There are some famous scenes from The True Cost, showing this behaviour for what it is, #trueblackfriday. When I watched this particular part of The True Cost, I cried heavily, seeing this unbecoming behaviour, contrasted with many of the manufactures. The closest comparison I have to this was queuing brit style, early, but politely for the Next sale with my Mum as a kid. I think most Brits would agree that is crazy enough.
The idea of bagging a bargain lights up our brain like a Christmas tree. But, in reality, if we are just buying for the sake of buying, is it the retailers that are going into the black not the customers on Black Friday? Are we being exploited by our holidays?
An Alternative View
Whatever your opinion on the day, we can all agree it is becoming harder to ignore, so while many retailers gear up for the sales, a growing band of retailers and shoppers are putting a new spin on the day of discounts. Instead, offering donations to relevant charities or announcing they will not be partaking in the sales. Some have even encouraged us to look after our mind and soul and get outdoors as a healthier alternative.
Peter Ruis, the CEO at Jigsaw, has a very refreshing and accurate take on Black Friday “deals”:
“Black Friday warps our perception of what’s valuable and important. Has that product been offered at 20% off been designed to offset the price decrease? Has the supplier had pressure put on them to take the hit? Was it always meant to be at that price anyway and been ‘price established’ higher?”
“We buy products for their quality and craft, and quite simply because we love them. We want them to be ethically sourced and honestly priced. That defines our perception of absolute value.”
Buy Nothing Day
This idea is gaining traction in a direct protest to over-consumerism. Encouraging shoppers worldwide to choose a different pass time Black Friday? Kicking off the festive season with some rather more heartwarming activities. Here are some great examples:
- Making handmade Christmas cards
- Printing your own wrapping paper
- Watch your favourite Christmas movie
- Organise a clothes swap with friends
- Get crafty and make gifts
- Go for a walk
- Organise a meet up with your besties
- Read a new book
- Play boards games or cards
- Go somewhere new and explore
This year we will be sat in the heat of Cambodia feeling a million miles away from the festivities. But, next year I am putting the date in the diary to organise a get-together.
Realistically, it is not just about saving your purchasing for another day, but starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and thinking about what we really need. Evaluating what will add value to our lives past the frivolities.
Alternatively, around Christmas, I think it is important to try and shift our shopping away from huge corporate chains and spend our dollar at a locally owned-community based business. Helping to grow the local economy, add a story behind the purchase and share the wealth. I also highly recommend making presents where you can. Last year we made loads of jams, pickles and chocolates to give everyone and it felt lovely.
I also recommend spending 92 minutes watching The True Cost on Netflix. This film changed everything for me and made me really question the kind of world I want to live in, by confirming the fears I already had about the fashion industry.
I would be inclined to say any excuse is a good excuse to avoid Black Friday and Boxing Day sales alike. Spend time with the people you love and do something that is truly enjoyable.
Love, Lottie xx
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