Black Friday is having a makeover, altruism is replacing discounting

As the consumer mindset changes, the retail strategy must follow. Shoppers connect more now than ever with the brand ethos of the company they are buying from. Add to this the fact that Marie Kondo has reminded us all that we need less, but that quality is very important for the pieces we choose to invest in. So, it makes sense then that this Black Friday we’re seeing a shift in the brand strategy from an increasing number of US retailers, away from discounting stuff and towards a more altruistic approach- standing for something. Brands are announcing that they are going to donate money to charities over Black Friday weekend instead of participating in discounting.

So far, we’ve seen fashion retailer Everlane commit to this promise on their Insta stories as part of their ‘Transparency Tuesday’ series. ModCloth went so far as to issue a press release explaining that it is “shutting down its site on Black Friday and giving its employees a day off, so its workers and shoppers can focus on things that make them feel good – namely donating to charity.” It’s also encouraging its consumers to be part of the initiative via social media using the hashtag #BlackFridayBreakUp.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and we wanted to do something different and remind our community that this time of year is about friends, family and helping others in need,” explained Nicole Haase, ModCloth’s vice president and general merchandising manager.

Across the pond in the UK, where there’s actually been an increase in Black Friday sales, despite the fact that the UK doesn’t even celebrate Thanksgiving, some retailers are breaking rank. New online start up Buy Me Once, which has a brand ethos focused around reducing consumption, has launched a Green Friday campaign. The campaign is partnered with Friends of the Earth, a leading environmental charity, and Buy Me Once will donate 100% of the revenue from the 24th of November to the charity. There’s also beauty brand Lush, which has produced a limited edition Black Friday soap in the shape of an oregautan,  to raise awareness of how close to extinction they are, with sales going to SOS and the Orangutan Information Centre.

This move towards kindness over things has been interesting, as on the whole Black Friday still offers a high revenue opportunity for retailers. While altruism is a key emerging theme, we’re also seeing retailers start their Black Friday sales earlier to benefit fully from the markdown mentality – and feverish spending capabilities.

Last year, brands like REI and Patagonia (that focus on sustainability and reducing consumption) were the ones to really pave the way for this alternative Black Friday retail strategy that we’re seeing, by being some of the first retailers to make a stand. As more retailers come on board, it’s a slow but noticeable shift to seeing forward-thinking retailers normalising this idea of ethics before profits. But it will be interesting to notice if it’s something that brands keep up year after year (or if it’s a marketing fad), especially as store footfall continues to spiral downward.


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