Published 2 years ago.
About a 6 minute read.
Image: More brands are joining REI in encouraging holiday shoppers to skip the sales and soak up nature. | Kamaji Ogino/Pexels
Consumers are more and more inclined to buy from brands that align with their beliefs and values; and anti-Black Friday is an important indicator of the
growing chasm between purpose-driven brands and those still banking on business-as-usual approaches.
Black Friday is an unabashed celebration of consumerism, and most companies
are still happy to profit from the hysteria. The unofficial holiday is infamous
for fomenting hordes of wild-eyed consumers eager to pummel each other over
whatever the deeply discounted products are that year — a frenzy that rakes in
revenues for participating retailers at a steep cost to society and the
Last year in the UK, Black Friday is estimated to have
430,000 metric tonnes of emissions — the equivalent of 435 return flights from
London to New York. And a 2019 Green Alliance
report found that 80 percent
of everything bought during the Black Friday bonanza ends up getting tossed
shortly after purchase.
But consumers are becoming more aware that brands are largely responsible for
perpetuating social and environmental woes, and 86 percent of consumers believe
that businesses must do their
part in solving
environmental and social challenges. 2020 research from
suggested a growing consumer propensity to buy less stuff — or at least thinking
more carefully before making purchases, including a growing preference for
choosing products that last longer — and a corresponding desire to support
brands that help them
more sustainable lifestyles and purchasing behaviors.
Every year, more brands choose to forgo the historically most lucrative day in
the fiscal year, instead encouraging their customers to be more thoughtful with
their purchasing behaviors — or even not shop with them at all. This is
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The revolution against Black Friday officially began in 2011. Preceding that
year’s onslaught, Patagonia bought a full-page ad in the New York Times,
featuring a photo of a fleece with the words “Don’t Buy This
REI was next to step over the line — the co-op launched
in 2015 to encourage its workers, their families, and customers to spend Black
Friday outdoors instead of fighting the masses at the mall (or REI stores). On
that first fateful day in November 2015, the outdoor recreation outfitter closed
its doors and paid its employees to take the day off. #OptOutside spawned a
unshackling themselves from no-bars-hold profiteering from customers’
hemorrhaging wallets, but it did something more, too: By shrugging off rat-race
economics, companies such as REI and Patagonia set themselves apart from other
rank-and-file retailers vying for the attention of customers.
Customers are more and more inclined to buy from brands that
align with their
beliefs and values; and anti-Black Friday is an important indicator of the
growing chasm between purpose-driven brands and those still banking on
Last year, the coronavirus pandemic virtually shut down in-store
shopping; but the number of
shoppers — virtual and otherwise — still amounted to a respectable 186.4
over the Thanksgiving weekend. Most of the shopping last year was done online.
The changes of 2020 are here to stay for 2021, and likely beyond. As Jill Standish, a senior managing director at
Accenture, stated in a
recent report: “The declining popularity of Black Friday, coupled with consumers starting their
holiday shopping early, means that retailers and brands need to engage consumers
throughout the season.”
The dominance of Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be diminishing, but people
plan to spend
on holiday shopping in 2021 than they did last year. Overall consumption is by
no means decreasing, just redistributing. Brands, following Accenture’s advice,
are “engaging” their customers throughout the season with prolonged sales over
weeks and months rather than single-day or weekend sales.
For other brands, engaging customers means bucking the Black Friday tradition
altogether and finding new ways to engage customers through purposeful buying,
donating and circularity. Here’s how some brands are resisting the pièce de
résistance of Western consumerism:
For the third year in a row, upcycled bag brand
Freitag is closing its online store on Black
Friday and encouraging people to barter and trade instead of buying new.
Through its S.W.A.P. (Shopping Without Any
Payment) initiative, bag owners can trade their durable Freitag products
on the company’s bag exchange platform, encouraging trade and barter over
consumption on the biggest buying day of the year.
Folding bike pioneer
is offering a free bike hire in the UK to encourage riding and exercise over
driving and spending.
Flamingos life, known for its vegan
sneakers, is also closing its online store on Black Friday. The company even
has a Black Friday
which states:“There are plenty of good reasons for not being part of Black
Friday. With all its over-the-top discount hysteria, it's a day that helps
very few and harms a lot more — be it in social, ecological, or economic
terms. We've no desire to support this kind of frenzied consumerism, either
as producers or personally as consumers.”
Dutch wallet and card-protector maker
is offering a free repair service for customers.
Sustainable surf and yoga clothing pros
Oy are also closing their
online store and calling for donations instead.
REI continues its seven-year-running tradition of
closing its stores and blocking online purchases on Black Friday, instead
paying its 13,000 employees to #OptOutside. This year, the company is also highlighting
the grantees of its Cooperative Action
who are working to build a more equitable and inclusive outdoor culture and
increase access to outdoor recreation for
For the fifth year in a row, Swedish fashion brand
Asket will honor Black Friday by shutting down
its website and brick-and-mortar store, encouraging its customers to educate
themselves about the fashion industry in lieu of buying anything new.
Online sustainable marketplace Made Trade is
boosting its usual 1% for the Planet commitment to 10 percent on Black
Friday. What’s more, customers have the option to take 10 percent off
purchases Nov. 26-29 or donate those 10 percent savings to Made Trade’s
Black Friday Fund, which
helps fund planting of fruit and nut orchards in food-insecure urban communities.
Stainless steel drinkware company MiiR will donate
100 percent of Black Friday’s online and retail sales to charity:
water to help effectively address the water
crisis and bring clean, safe water to families around the globe.
Home goods giant IKEA
has launched Green
Friday to encourage
thoughtful consumption. Nov. 19-26, IKEA offers sustainable product
discounts. IKEA Family members can now
their used IKEA products for store credit; and customers can buy used IKEA
products through the company’s Circular
Published Nov 22, 2021 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Christian is a writer, photographer, filmmaker, and outdoor junkie obsessed with the intersectionality between people and planet. He partners with brands and organizations with social and environmental impact at their core, assisting them in telling stories that change the world.