A consumers’ movement to resist overconsumption and boycott Black Friday is growing, as crowds of shoppers in the developed world prepare to battle for bargains.
The hashtag #boycottblackfriday is not yet trending, but has been quite active in the past few days. Customers share their thoughts on how one can care for, repair or upcycle any item, instead of buying new, cheap – and sometimes uncesserary – ones. Others call on consumers to support independent and small retailers instead of buying online via retailers. The blackfriday.com website offers a list of all brands closed in the US for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
In the UK, The Times focused on a survey showing that Black Friday “deals” can be found either cheaper or at the same price at other times. Shoppers, the article mentions, could save by delaying their purchases. The consumer watchdog Which? tracked 100 popular products over a year. They found that nine out of ten of the so-called deals are not the bargains they supposed to be. Almost half of the products were cheaper in the six months following Black Friday last year. They anticipate a similar pattern this year.
Understanding whether the sales are genuine or not remains a consumerist approach. It is worth noting, however, that a value-based approach is also developing in the margins of the Black Friday consumerist fever.
In early October, the global PR firm Edelman published its 2018 Earned Brand survey that shows that consumers tend to put their faith in brands to stand for values and help solve societal and political problems. Edelman adds that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers worldwide now buy on belief. This is a remarkable increase of 13 points since 2017. True, there still is a discrepancy between what consumers say their values are and their shopping behaviour. But the belief-driven mindset seems to be steadily developing.
Today’s corporations need to be increasingly agile, open on the outside, and clear on the role they play in society and towards nature. This is how belief-driven consumers want to see them. This should be the case for all industries and it should also resonate among big retailers.
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF OVERCONSUMPTION
In France, an interesting initiative came from a substantial online retailer. Back in 2009, Camif –a large French online retail shop– made the choice to merge its corporate strategy with a sustainability strategy. Since then they have been offering locally made products and have been mindful to reconcile profit with positive social and environmental impact in all their initiatives.
In a recent interview to FranceInfo.fr, Camif CEO Emery Jacquillat explains why the company decided to close its sales site on Black Friday: “This week everyone intices you to buy products you don’t necessarily need. We decided to resist and fight the overconsumption spiral. Both climate change and the fundamental transformation of the world biodiversity are directly linked to our consumption patters”.
Jacquillat further explains that the deals one can find on Black Friday often have hidden costs. As a rule, he says, the cheapest products carry a negative social and environmental impact. He adds : “Overconsumption is profoundly detrimental to the planet. We urge all our consumers to pause and think of what they really need. They should refrain from buying anything on that particular day. That would be the best deal you could possibly make on Black Friday.”
Closing an on-line sales site on Black Friday could be seen as a risky move. Yet, by so doing the company is transforming an obvious risk into a growth opportunity. After advising consumers to think twice before buying, Camif clearly positions itself as a value-based organisation and gives life to its motto: “To buy is to vote”.
It has been 26 years since the first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Canada in September 1992. Founders –including artist Ted Dave– then wanted society to reflect on the impact of overconsumption. Over 65 countries now participate in the annual campaign that takes place on the last Saturday of November, except in the US where it clearly is an action to resist Black Friday.
It will be interesting to follow this year whether the movement to resist overconsumption is indeed growing across the developed world. Consumers may declare being value-driven, a majority of them still buy more than they need, and at the cheapest possible price. It is our responsibility as consumers and citizens of the world to resist overconsumption and boycott Black Friday.