The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are upon us once again, but not everyone - and not every brand - is on board with the price-slashing shopping frenzy that annually assaults our email in-boxes, social media streams and TV screens. Many see the sales as an unseemly orgy of consumerism that promotes unhealthy habits and decisions that are bad for business, workers and the planet (opens in new tab).
Haglöfs (opens in new tab), who make top-quality outdoor kit from sleeping bags (opens in new tab) to hiking boots (opens in new tab), has been taking a stand against the environmental and social perils of excessive consumption for several years, and is using this opportunity to promote second-hand products and remind customers that they offer a lifetime guarantee on all their gear, and will repair anything that fails for free. On previous Black Fridays the Swedish brand has actually increased its prices and donated profits to charities, and this year they are closing the business for the day and encouraging staff to use the time to go outside with their family and friends. (You may still see some retailers offering Black Friday discounts on Haglöfs products, but this is outside of the brands' control.)
“The environmental and social consequences of Black Friday are just too big for us to ever consider participating,” says Fredrik Ohlsson, Haglöfs’ CEO. “We hope that our contrary actions will at the very least help draw attention to the problems of excessive consumption and systematic and large-scale discounting which are taking us in the wrong direction.”
The company argues that, while seasonal sales have long been a feature of the clothing industry, allowing companies to clear stock, recent years have seen a trend towards frequent frenzied discounting, with some brands producing cheap products specifically for events like Black Friday. The consequences of this are excessive consumption, with people buying potentially sub-standard kit that they won’t use or don’t need, which has a terrible environmental impact. And beyond that, systematic discounting also contributes to driving down production costs and worker’s salaries across the whole supply chain.
And Haglöfs aren’t the only ones taking a stand. British brand Fera (opens in new tab) - who produce excellent outdoor wear and accessories, from fleeces (opens in new tab) and shirts to reusable mugs (opens in new tab) - are declining to discount anything over Black Friday, and instead are donating 15% of each sale made between 24th and 28th November to nature.
This is a significant increase from the 5% of sales the brand always passes on to environmental causes. A statement from the company says: ‘We were founded by passionate outdoorsmen and we want to give back to nature wherever we can. Beyond our commitment to make clothes that are made to last, we donate 5% from every order (not just the profit) to conservation charities and projects that are helping to protect our wild.’
The kick back against Black Friday sales isn’t just a European thing either. In the United States, several big brands and retailers including Patagonia (opens in new tab) and REI (opens in new tab) are refusing to take part. Patagonia is a company well known for its long-standing environmental and ethical standards, and the brand’s founder recently announced (opens in new tab) he was handing over all future profits the company makes to an organisation dedicated to improving and defending the health of the planet.
The brand, which makes highly regarded adventure apparel from base layers (opens in new tab) through to wetsuits (opens in new tab), has been taking out ads in prominent newspapers like the New York Times (opens in new tab) for over a decade (such as the one shown at the top of this story) urging people not to buy their products unless they really need them.
On the Patagonia website this weekend you will find the following statement: ‘Black Friday is a frenzy of deep discounts, limited-time offers and last-ditch efforts urging you to “save” by spending more. We’re not doing that. Instead, we’d like to slow down and think about the bond we all build with our clothes. That’s why we’re committed to learning how to repair what we already own, shopping for used gear to keep it out of the landfill, or—when you do need something new—buying clothing and gear that’s built for the long haul. We also have ways you can donate your time, money or skills to the issues that matter to you most.’
However, in a tough economic environment, some small businesses are hoping sales from Black Friday and in the run up to Christmas will see them through. Over a third of small businesses make over 20% of their annual income in this crucial festive period, and the message to socially conscious shoppers from Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business (opens in new tab), is to deliberately shop local, and to support small, specialist companies.