What’s Going On Here?
The hyper-consumerist behaviour encouraged by events such as Black Friday is detrimental for the environment. However, increasing awareness around climate change is one of the reasons 2021 saw the biggest independent Black Friday boycott in history.
What Does This Mean?
According to the British Independent Retailers Association, 85% of independent businesses boycotted Black Friday: the highest number that has ever been recorded.
The pandemic also played a part. The injustices of the covid-19 pandemic caused enormous difficulties for independent retailers while Amazon profits skyrocketed. Black Friday is usually not an option for smaller businesses anyway, whose profit margins are too tight to afford a discount.
While some independent retailers boycotted Black Friday by completely ignoring it, others have taken more creative measures:
· Swiss bag retailer Freitag closed their store temporarily for Black Friday, and encouraing us of its S.W.A.P initiative which encourages customers to swap old bags using a ‘dating-app-style’ exchange
· Sustainable underwear brand Pantee restricted access to their website to existing members only, vowing to not be a part of impulse transactions
· Vivo Barefoot offered discounts on their re-sale platform instead of their regular stock
· Online clothing store Buy Me Once discounted only their top ten most desired items, determined through a customer survey
· Hiut Denim and independent jeweller Ruth Mary Chipperfield offered advice on how to mend and repair existing garments to encourage people to value what they already have
· Several brands donated a percentage of their sales to charities and reforestation initiatives
· See more examples here, here and here!
Compare some of these attitudes to fast fashion giants Pretty Little Thing, who were giving clothes away for free…
Why Should We Care?
The boycott sounds like good news! This hopefully indicates growing awareness of the impacts of excessive consumerism on the environment, inspiring genuine behaviour change amongst businesses.
But is boycotting Black Friday enough? We don’t want to see big brands pausing their Black Friday activities only to resume business as usual every other day of the year. Watch out for greenwashing!
Be conscious of your own consumerism and the impact this has on the planet and people. Sales can be a great chance to grab something you’ve had an eye on for a while, but be mindful of impulse buying…all year round!
Read Aja Barber’s book Consumed to learn more about consumerist culture and the environmental and social impacts of retail supply chains.
From the Curious Earth archives: understand in more detail how fast fashion harms the planet, and contributes to plastic pollution.