With Black Friday fast approaching, we have been weighing up how we wish to respond. Sojourn has only been live for a few months, and as a business with a strong focus on sustainability, our involvement needs to be considered. It’s hard not to enjoy the discounts offered up by Black Friday, but as a sustainable company we cannot ignore what the sales period has come to represent - the ultimate symbol of consumerism. Before we made a decision on how or even if we would partake, we decided to dig a little deeper into why Black Friday exists and explore how other companies are showing up.
Not surprisingly, this phenomenon began in the US and was originally associated with the 1869 financial crisis when gold prices crashed, leaving Wall Street aristocrats bankrupt. Only in the 1950’s did Black Friday become what it is now: aggressive post-Thanksgiving sales whereby retailers slash prices as a means of kick starting the festive season shopping period. On this day, retailers moved from making a loss and being in the ‘red’ to becoming profitable and being in the ‘back’, explaining how the name ‘Black Friday’ came into play.
Despite its immensity, Black Friday was only introduced to the UK in 2010, by the American giant Amazon. ASDA (owned by Walmart) jumped on board in 2013 leading to a bandwagon effect as many other retailers followed suit. To give some perspective, over the last 10 years Black Friday sales have grown by 18% an increase of £3 billion.
Black Friday is great for big businesses looking for a cash injection, but we cannot ignore the pressure it puts on smaller players to slash their margins in the name of relevance. For us the bigger issue is Black Friday’s impact on the environment and the culture of mass consumerism and that comes with it.
The boycotters and the offsetters
As it is our first Black Friday, we’ve had a look into how other smaller more conscious brands are responding to the sales season as a source of inspiration. A number of brands such as Veja, Sanqvist and Nudie Jeans simply won’t mention the words. However most other brands boycotting Black Friday are doing so more actively, participating in the French led ‘Make Friday Green again’ action group. Initiated by Faguo, this campaign rallied over 600 companies to demand the ban of Black Friday, arguing that it encourages overconsumption and the underpayment of manufacturers and retailers .
Other brands including COPE & Deciem choose to completely close their physical and online shops for the day whilst running awareness campaigns in parallel. Spanish brand Ecocalf run recycling Black Friday, UK based Raeburn created the “Buy Nothing, Repair Something” campaign, closing the store but opening the doors of their atelier for free repairs. And IKEA has launched ‘Buy back Friday’ where they take back old pieces of furniture to sell second hand, and in return issuing customers with vouchers to spend in store.
A number of companies also choose to donate part of their revenue to charities, to name a few: Patagonia, North Face, Everlane, JustEat and many more. And then there are the likes of Pukka, Tentree, Zola Amour and Public Fibre who choose to give something back to earth in return, by planting trees for each sale made.
Our take on Black Friday
As a small business centered around sustainability, this global sales event has left us in a bit of a dilemma. It's a great opportunity to create new connections for our brands, but it does feel like a contradiction to who we are and what we represent.
Trends show that significantly more shoppers are considering the environmental impact of their purchases this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It makes us so excited to see the shift to more sustainable consumer habits as shoppers move away from impulse spending towards more considered choices. We aim to positively contribute to this sustainable, more mindful shopping trend by running a 30% discount on all our products for the three day period. We hope to demonstrate that sustainable products can be competitive in quality and price, with added exclusivity.
And to further our commitment to offsetting, for every sale made we will plant a tree, from Black Friday onwards. We are thrilled to be partnering with Just One Tree. A non-profit organisation focused on removing CO2 through global reforestation, kelp forest regeneration and sustainability education.
The fabulous Vivienne Westwood once said “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”
We couldn't agree more. When shopping this Black Friday, buy better. Be thoughtful in your purchases, support small business (they need you more than ever) and buy to last.