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Sack Friday: Why companies are boycotting Black Friday

By Paul Archer, Founder of Duel

Black Friday has been a staple in many companies’ marketing strategies for several years – until now that is. This year, we are seeing more brands than ever rethinking their involvement with the profit-led holiday. In fact, according to data from British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), 85 per cent of UK independent retailers have said they will not participate in this year’s Black Friday, instead choosing to shut down their websites, donate their profits to charity and plant trees. Why? The reason is threefold: it’s damaging the planet; it’s damaging perceived brand value, and it’s damaging profit.  

It’s damaging the planet 

Black Friday attempts to swell customers desire to purchase, but at what cost? Companies extract excess raw materials to sell products that are likely to end up in landfill. The system has a massive ecological impact that’s exacerbated by the fact that workers across the world are also often exploited in the process.

Black Friday is all too often used to shift old stock – brands take the opportunity to discount unsold items just to get rid of them. At face value, it seems like a good idea. But the truth is that holidays like Black Friday, and the concept and practice of discounting, just encourages reckless production in the first place. It serves only to drive hyper-consumerism. Companies don’t focus on making what they need but overproduce unnecessarily instead. 

That’s why beauty brand, Deciem, has announced it will close its stores and take down its website on Black Friday, as it did last year, for what it refers to as “a moment of nothingness”. The company said in a statement: “Black Friday no longer felt like a people or planet friendly event.”

Ethical clothing company, THTC, is also boycotting the holiday, saying: “We don’t use Black Friday as an excuse to make a load of money by burning through dead stock. If something’s not selling well, we carry it onto the following seasons. We try to only print what we know we’re going to sell.”

It’s damaging your brand perception

A brand tells its customers that its product/service will add value to them and that the price of the product/service reflects that value. This is all great until the same brand starts discounting left right and centre. Discounting communicates to your customers that your brand might not be worth the money they are paying for it.

Former CEO of global apparel brand, Lululemon, explained: “Every dollar you discount takes $10 off the market capitalization of [a] company. It’s so easy to go on discount and to sell the soul of the brand over a three- or four-year period and make the numbers look really good, which makes the CEO look like a hero to Wall Street, but [the CEO] has really undermined the value of the brand and the future discounting ability. So in other words, if you keep discounting, then at some point people don’t believe in your discount and they don’t buy what it is you want them to buy.” 

Discounting devalues a company.

It’s damaging your profit and your people

Customers put off purchases earlier in the year in anticipation of Black Friday, resulting in fewer sales across the year, meaning companies are forced to push heavily on Black Friday. It becomes a vicious, sales shaped cycle. It’s a huge pressure point and is no surprise that marketers dread the holiday.

On top of this, a Which? survey revealed that many consumers feel rushed into bagging bargains they don’t need or can’t afford thereby accruing unnecessary debt and regret on Black Friday. A huge 76% of customers who bought DIY products in the Black Friday sale later regretted their purchases. This is the last thing a purpose-led brand should be looking to dump on its customers.

So, is it time for you to Sack Black Friday for good? Even though the 2021 Black Friday vehicle is already in motion, the brakes are slowly being applied to the holiday in general. It’s one deeply entrenched in our economic culture, but waves of change are upon us – it’s time for purpose-led brands to embrace and lead this change by putting people and the planet, over profit.