The Rise of Black Friday Alternatives

For some, Black Friday is a chance to get thrifty and bag some great deals for their Christmas presents. For others, it represents all the worst parts of a consumerist society, and brings to mind images of people fighting over TVs. Whatever your views are, it’s clear that a lot of people go crazy for Black Friday bargains!

At the same time, however, we are living in a society which is becoming increasingly aware of its environmental impact. People are making more conscious purchases and are less bothered about always accumulating new stuff.

The prominence of sustainable fashion, and a push back against mindless purchasing, mean that brands are beginning to move away from this famous sales weekend and instead offer consumers Black Friday alternatives.


How did Black Friday start?

The original use of the term “Black Friday” was used in the context of a financial crisis (slightly ironic, we know). On Friday 24th September 1869, the US gold market crashed and this led to bankruptcy on Wall Street.

Many years later in America, this post-Thanksgiving period became a prime opportunity for making profits through discounts. It is thought that police officers in Philadelphia began to use the term “Black Friday” in the 1950s to refer to this period because the vast amount of shoppers brought chaos along with them.

By the 1980s, the phrase had become commonplace in the United States and retailers began to use it to their advantage. It wasn’t popularised in the UK until much later, with Amazon attempting to introduce it in 2010 and Asda in 2013.

With the increasing popularity of online retail, there has also emerged Cyber Monday, an additional day of sales for online shoppers.


How are brands embracing alternatives to Black Friday?

While Black Friday is still extremely popular, many brands are becoming increasingly aware of their position of responsibility when it comes to environmental consciousness. This has led to a whole range of Black Friday alternatives emerging, and we’ve outlined a few below:


‘Make Friday Green Again’

According to a BBC article, more than 300 clothing brands have joined together to form the Make Friday Green Again collective and are asking shoppers not to buy anything in the Black Friday sales.

The collective mainly consists of French clothing brands, including Faguo. Instead of offering discounts on their products, they are asking people to instead look at the clothes in their existing wardrobe and see what can be repaired, sold or recycled. They argue that Black Friday encourages rampant consumerism and leads to people buying clothes they don’t actually need.


Small Business Saturday

One trend that has emerged in response to Black Friday is the establishment of the Small Business Saturday campaign. This is a not-for-profit, grassroots campaign, which aims to support, inspire and promote small businesses. The allocated day is the first Saturday of December each year, but the central goal is to popularise using small businesses all year round.


‘Anti-Black Friday’ campaigns

Lone Design Club, an online concept store which stocks independent fashion and lifestyle brands, is bringing back their ‘Anti-Black Friday’ pop-up in Covent Garden once again this year. The aim is to inspire people to spend Black Friday mindfully and promote slow living, with workshop activities including knitting, needlework and meditation.

Skincare brand Deciem, which stocks cult favourite products such as those from The Ordinary, has announced that it will be closing its stores and blacking out its website for Black Friday this year.


Charity partnerships, funds and campaigns

A number of leading brands have established a tradition of creating charity partnerships or making charity donations on Black Friday. While not technically a Black Friday alternative, it does provide a way to channel Black Friday sales into something really positive. 

Fashion brand Everlane have created a ‘Black Friday Fund’, where they donate $10 for every order to charity. This year, they have chosen to support Oceana – a charity which aims to protect the oceans.

Outdoor clothing brand REI are putting on the fifth year of their #OptOutside initiative which encourages customers to join environmental cleanup events across the US throughout November.

Back in 2016, Patagonia donated 100% of their Black Friday sales to grassroots organisations that benefit the environment. They predicted that this amount would reach around $2 million but Patagonia actually made sales of $10 million, all of which was donated.


What is the motivation for moving away from Black Friday?

Many brands are choosing to distance themselves from the Black Friday phenomenon because they don’t want to be perceived as hypocritical when it comes to fast fashion and sustainability. They are deeply aware that we all need to treat the environment with more respect, and that encouraging the constant purchasing of shiny new things comes with a significant environmental footprint.

Of course, the counter-argument to all of this is that Black Friday offers people the chance to buy products that they might not otherwise be able to afford. Although this is true, brands want to move away from a culture of impulsivity and mindless bargain hunting and instead encourage people to invest in their products for the long-haul, not just to chuck away in a few months.

Moving away from Black Friday does not necessarily need to be commercial suicide. Brands such as Patagonia, Everlane and Deciem have, in part, become so popular because of their active stance on social consciousness and environmental awareness. Black Friday alternatives show that you have strong values as a brand and that your products are of high quality and deserve the price tag you give them.