New column by Maja Podojsteršek.

Technically, Black Friday isn’t a holiday, even though it is being treated as such these days. What started as just one day, Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which marked the start of the Christmas shopping season, has now become a weekend-long event, with some retailers announcing pre-Black Friday sales even as far as a week prior to the actual date. A quick history lesson tells us that it essentially started as a way of getting rid of extra stock and making profit – the ‘black’ in Black Friday according to some, comes from those negative red numbers (which no retailer wants to see) turning black on this day. It has been the busiest shopping day of the year since the early noughties.

Let’s cut the crap. Like it or not, we live in a consumerist society. A big margin of the global economy is fueled with what you spend daily. Money does indeed run the world, and consumerism, roughly put, provides the jobs of many. Without it, businesses fail, and with businesses failing, people get sacked.

Fact 1: We won’t end consumerism. So, if you have a brand and you sell something, you indirectly, admittedly or not, contribute to it. It’s a beast we’ve been feeding for so long that it’s grown beyond manageable proportions and even had a certain offspring called ‘mass consumerism’ – another immense problem, we need to tackle in today’s society. It’s the thing many smaller businesses and sustainable brands fight against, whilst big corporations and fast fashion strive on it. It’s good that we’re becoming self-aware though, encouraging each other to shop responsibly, especially on days like Black Friday, where it’s so easy to get lost in the whirlwind of ‘outstanding, exclusive’ offers and forget that the things we put into our virtual carts aren’t necessarily things that are essential for us.

As we are globally striving towards being more sustainable, ethical, and supportive of local brands, the big debate of Black Friday sales arises. Should small businesses and sustainable brands participate in what has become the embodiment of mass consumerism? If they don’t, are they fighting the big fight? Should we condemn those who do lower their prices on this infamous Friday (and Saturday and Sunday, and perhaps even Monday)?

There are pros and cons to it and in the end, it’s down to the brand or business to decide for themselves. But when you look at the bigger picture, is opting out of Black Friday sales just making space for fast fashion brands to promote their sales and draw more people in?

Fact 2: Not everyone can afford to be sustainable. With big differences in socio-economic backgrounds of customers, what fast fashion did, was to allow everyone to express themselves through the way they dress – where they once stood out for not being ‘on trend’, it’s now easy to blend in and have your own sense of style. At the same time, those who can afford more, can maintain a ‘healthy’ mix of sustainable and local, when it comes to staple pieces, and cheaper options for trends. Sustainable brands and local businesses are usually on the more expensive side because a lot more work goes into how a garment or other products are made. And those who want to contribute to that can’t always afford to – and those who can afford to, might not have it in their best interest to support such businesses.

Why is it so bad then, for a small business or sustainable brand to make a Black Friday offer? If they can afford to make one, that is. Lowering the price for a day or offering free shipping if you can’t afford to lower the price in order to keep your production chain fair trade, can make a big difference, not only for your brand’s sales, but also for the customer interested in your product. Someone who can’t afford to shop sustainable throughout the year might reconsider investing in a product they’ll cherish, something that will last – so can a special offer on this day hurt your business or can you only profit from it, if more people decide to invest because of free shipping or those 20% off?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying everyone should make Black Friday offers. I’m saying that choosing not to make a Black Friday offer shouldn’t be an Instagram post trend based on zero arguments or bad ones, if any. If you’re deciding against Black Friday as a retailer and are willing to openly speak about it, I, as a potential customer, want to know; WHY are YOU as a BRAND against it? Transparency goes a long way and ‘because I’m against consumerism’ isn’t a good enough answer. If you’re selling products you can’t be against consumerism because without consumerism you’re out of business.

Are you against mass consumerism? Okay, what do you do daily (not just on Black Friday) that educates and encourages your customers to spend less and spend wisely? Is your product good enough that it will last for long enough so that when someone buys it will be with them for years to come? Are you making sure that whoever buys your product is advised to be sustainable or thoughtful with it as well?

Fact 3: Just because someone has enough money to buy sustainable, doesn’t mean that they won’t throw the product away after a year. Or when they spill red wine on it and can’t get the stain out.

Would an offer like that collapse your business model? No shame in communicating that either. Introduce your brand. Introduce the workers behind it. Let the customer know who and what they are investing in and supporting. Keep the conversation and your intents honest and trust me, your customers will appreciate it.

There is nothing wrong with opting out of Black Friday. Just as there is nothing wrong with explaining why you are doing it. And there is nothing wrong with sustainable brands or smaller businesses participating in Black Friday either. Investing into a staple sustainable piece and supporting a local business with a Black Friday offer isn’t and shouldn’tbe viewed as mass consumerism.

All I can say is: shop responsibly throughout the year, not just on Black Friday. Add transparency to your brand’s business model. Strive to be honest. Work towards doing good. It’s something the world needs more of.

Maja Podojsteršek

Graphic Design: Ana Žnidaršič


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