Every year on November 27, the world falls under Black Friday's spell. Hailed as the biggest shopping day — if not month — of the year, the hectic holiday has been known to inspire such strong bouts of discount deal FOMO that shoppers have frequently trampled each other (sometimes to death) in the race to bag the best bargain.
Thanks to Covid, IRL shopping stampedes will not be taking place this year. But while your Instagram feed will be free of such frantic scenes, that doesn't mean that the retail battlefield isn't taking place online. Last year, Black Friday online shopping sales hit an all-time high: 93.2 million digital shoppers resulted in a sales total of $7.4 billion. This year, reports predict that number could grow by 35 to 40 percent, leading to an astronomical figure that feels very bleak when considered in relation to how much of that goes on clothing — 80 percent of which is doomed for landfills after an average of seven wears.
“2020 has been an unusual year, with many Covid-19 related challenges for the fashion industry including unsold stock and retailers in peril," says Flora Davidson, co-founder of fashion transparency software company SupplyCompass. "While Black Friday is positioned as helping some of these challenges in the short-term, it’s important to reflect on the longer-term implications and damage." She adds, “There is no such thing as a deal that’s too good to be true; if you’re not paying full cost, someone else is."
The effects of Black Friday are global, but there is far too much guilt put on the heads of individual shoppers instead of regulating the system that allows this to happen. Yet, as the holiday has turned into a ritual over the years, becoming a cultural phenomenon of sorts that people want to be a part of as a way to stay connected (a 2013 article found that some shoppers take part in Black Friday as a way of bonding with family members) it's understandable that people don't want to boycott — particularly after a year that already feels extremely isolated.
But it doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. If you want to take part in Black Friday but are conscious of its impact, there are some paths you can take, and we've outlined them below.
First: Ask Yourself Some Questions
Before you shop, it's worth popping some Marie Kondo vibes into the mix with a series of questions relating to a product's personal value. Ask yourself: Do I need it? Do I own something similar already? Will I wear it a lot? How long will it last?
Then: Be Mindful of the Brands You Spend With
If you're going to shop, support brands that are actively working to combat the effects of Black Friday. Here's a starter pack:
Patagonia: The brand has a long history of using Black Friday as a platform to educate customers and support environmental groups. This year, Patagonia has updated its digital store with a Worn Wear label next to each product, encouraging its customers to purchase an alternative while shopping for new products.
"No other company is selling used alongside new items and this exciting new development is our latest commitment to keeping our products in use longer. The clothing industry is not sustainable, apparel workers are among the lowest paid in the world and we are committed to doing better.” — Helena Barbour, VP of Global Sportswear, Patagonia
Allbirds is raising its prices. All products will increase by $1 and that dollar will be matched by a donation from the footwear company that will go directly to Fridays for Future, the international climate strike movement founded by Greta Thunberg in 2018.
Haglöfs: Not for the first time, Swedish brand Haglöfs will be boycotting Black Friday and closing its stores and its webstore. Only the Stockholm-based store will be open, but no discounts or products from the current collection will be on offer. Instead, it's encouraging customers to try and buy second-hand via its new Haglöfs Restored program, which focuses on restoring items that would either be neglected or binned
Arc'teryx: All November, Arc'teryx has been running its Used Gear project — customers can return their used Arc'teryx items and receive a gift card worth 30 percent of the OG RRP. The brand is also donating $10 for every traded item, up to $25,000.
REI: The US outdoor retail chain REI is shutting up shop for Black Friday. It will still pay its employees for this day and is encouraging them to spend the day in nature instead, launching the hashtag #OptOutside.
Globetrotter: All this week, Globetrotter is kickstarting its resale service. You can take in used equipment into a store in exchange for a Globetrotter voucher, and the brand will soon start reselling these second-hand wears in its stores.
Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday generally gets lost in the mix between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is a good reason to embrace it this year. The day is dedicated to supporting small businesses and brands and, if you're unsure where to start, Fashion Revolution has you covered. It has identified 18 labels that are using Black Friday as a moment to give back, rather than encouraging overconsumption. Instead of milk the discounts, these brands are donating a percentage of sales directly to Fashion Revolution's campaigning for a fairer industry.
Find the brands selected in the IG post above.