Sack Black Friday: these brands don't want you to buy today

Leading outdoor brands Patagonia and Haglöfs explain why they're turning their backs on Black Friday

Patagonia anti consumerism ad
(Image credit: Patagonia)

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.

Haglöfs, who make top-quality outdoor kit from sleeping bags to hiking boots, 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. 


Don't shop. Go outdoors. 

(Image credit: Fera)

And Haglöfs aren’t the only ones taking a stand. British brand Fera - who produce excellent outdoor wear and accessories, from fleeces and shirts to reusable mugs - 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.’


Memories from quality time spent outside will last a lot longer than cheap gear 

(Image credit: Getty)

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 and REI 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 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 through to wetsuits, has been taking out ads in prominent newspapers like the New York Times 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.’


Shop local to help small, specialist outdoor businesses survive the storm

(Image credit: Getty)

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, is to deliberately shop local, and to support small, specialist companies.

Pat Kinsella
Freelance outdoor writer

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat Kinsella has been writing about outdoor pursuits and adventure sports for two decades. In pursuit of stories he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked across the Norwegian Alps, run ultras across the roof of Mauritius and through the hills of the Himalayas, and set short-lived speed records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. A former editor of several Australian magazines he’s a longtime contributor to publications including Sidetracked, Outdoor, National Geographic Traveller, Trail Running, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Fitness and Adventure Travel, and a regular writer for Lonely Planet (for whom he compiled, edited and co-wrote the Atlas of Adventure, a guide to outdoor pursuits around the globe). He’s authored guides to exploring the coastline and countryside of Devon and Dorset, and recently wrote a book about pub walks. Follow Pat's adventures on Strava and instagram.