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Why We Don't Participate in Black Friday

26 November 2021 4 min read

It’s the busiest shopping day of the year in the US. And a trend that has, more recently, taken the UK by storm. But while many retailers will be ‘slashing’ their prices over the coming days, you won’t find us doing the same. And here’s why.

The problem with Black Friday

While other holidays espouse values such as togetherness, generosity and love, Black Friday is about one thing and one thing only...

overconsumption.

Specifically, Black Friday is an opportunity for brands to try to convince people to spend more than they can afford, on stuff they don’t need. A lot of which will probably end up being thrown away.

The New Statesman puts it really well:

‘Black Friday falls on the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Thus a mere 24 hours after being “thankful” for what they have, frenzied consumers lay siege to retail stores and the unfortunate staff who work there.’

And in most cases, the ‘deals’ aren’t really deals at all. Research has found that many stores deliberately hike up prices prior to Black Friday, only to reduce them back to their original price, citing ‘big savings’ on the day.

A study by Which? found that nine in ten Black Friday deals weren’t any cheaper than the rest of the year. The study looked at deals across some of Britain’s biggest retailers and found that, of 201 deals surveyed, only 17 actually offered any kind of discount, with just one item at its lowest price on Black Friday. So, while many see Black Friday as an opportunity to help cover the cost of Christmas, they aren’t really any better off.

This intentional misleading of consumers is just unethical. At a time when one in five UK households have an income below the poverty line, people are still being encouraged to spend, spend, spend. This year alone, British consumers have racked up over £4.1bn in outstanding debt.

Many consumers use credit cards to make the most of Black Friday deals. Photo: Karolina Grabowska

The history of Black Friday

The origin of Black Friday is found in 1950s Philadelphia. The day after Thanksgiving, hordes of people poured into the city in preparation for the big Army-Navy football game (we’re talking American football here). Chaos ensued, with police units stretched to breaking point trying to control the crowds. And shoplifting increased as people used the opportunity to steal merchandise from stores. By 1961, the term ‘Black Friday’ had caught on, at least in Philadelphia.

Then, in the late 1980s, retailers decided to try to reinvent Black Friday as a positive event. The revised story goes that retail companies would record profit and loss in black and red respectively in their accounting. After a year of being ‘in the red’, the boom of sales of discounted merchandise on the day after Thanksgiving would put them finally ‘in the black’. Hence Black Friday.

In the UK, Black Friday is still relatively new. It made its first appearance back in 2010, courtesy of retail megalith Amazon. And while it didn’t take long for British consumers to embrace the spending madness, more and more people are slowly starting to wake up to the reality of this so-called ‘holiday’. Digital marketing agency Sitecore reported 40 percent of Brits believe Black Friday no longer offers good deals. And 35 percent associate the day with overconsumption.

In a world where we are more conscious than ever of our impact on the planet, the drive to accumulate more ‘stuff’ seems increasingly irrelevant.

Speaking of our impact on the planet, a report from 2019 looking at 94 of the world’s largest cities found that the consumption of goods and services (including food, clothing, aviation, electronics, construction and vehicles) accounted for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Major shopping holidays such as Black Friday and Christmas play a big part in this. In the US, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste is reported to increase by more than 25 percent!

Green Friday: What is it? And is it any better?

In a countercultural move to fight the Black Friday frenzy, others are calling on consumers to adopt Green Friday instead.

Green Friday asks people to avoid making impulsive purchases, instead making conscious choices that have a more positive impact on the planet. Examples include heading out into nature, donating to charity or volunteering time towards environmental causes. Shopping sustainably, from brands committed to doing good. But, look out for ‘greenwashing’ from brands that claim to be eco-friendly simply to deflect attention away from their unsustainable practices. Are the deals any different to Black Friday deals, apart from being called Green Friday deals?

Green Friday is a better idea, but beware of greenwashing. Photo: ready made 

What we do instead

As a newly-launched business, it might seem crazy that we don't offer any Black Friday deals. Black Friday creates a hive of potential customers actively looking to spend money, which is a dream for any new business.⁠ However, we have consciously decided not to partake in Black Friday. One of our core values is to offer classic, timeless jewellery and we want our customers to carefully consider which piece is perfect for them before purchasing from us. ⁠

We offer exclusive discounts to our email subscribers and will do offers in the future, but the frenzied nature of Black Friday doesn't sit well with us as a brand, so we won't be participating this year, or any year. ⁠If you're interested in subscribing to receive these deals, head to the bottom of the page and simply fill in your email address and click to subscribe.

We want to be clear that we absolutely support other fine jewellery businesses who choose to offer Black Friday deals, it just isn't right for our business. ⁠

When you shop with illi, you’re choosing to shop sustainably. We’re actively seeking to be kinder to the planet, with eco-friendly jewellery and carbon neutral shipping to limit our environmental impact. We don't claim to be perfect, but we do claim that with every business decision we make, we try to choose the most sustainable option and we're constantly looking for ways to improve our company's footprint.

To find out more about our commitment to sustainability, read our Responsibility page. Or, take a look at some of our blog posts on sustainable jewellery and carbon offsetting.

We want to wish all of our customers a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and festive season, however you choose to spend it.