Not so long ago, Black Friday was a day to be anticipated and celebrated. After Americans stuffed themselves on Thanksgiving, they went in search of stuff to buy the day after. People camped overnight outside stores to take advantage of the doorbuster specials. Shoppers in Walmart came to blows over deals (literally).
Such was its popularity that Black Friday became a kind of retail Black Plague that spread across the world. But now, instead of consumers racing to open their wallets, some stores (in the US at least) are even closing their doors. Outdoor retailer REI announced that from this year, the co-operative will shut for good on Black Friday and encourage its employees and members to spend time outside rather than shopping. Even online orders won’t be processed until the following day.
Interest in Black Friday, and revenue numbers, are flatlining or trending down.
What’s happening? Partly, it’s the explosion of shopping days throughout the year – not just Cyber Monday, but Prime Day, Small Business Saturday, Afterpay Day (and the list goes on), plus the “Christmas creep” that sees the selling season start earlier than ever. Walmart and Target both kicked off their holiday deals in early October; to some extent an effort to clear excess inventory.
Then there’s the “Black Friday bloat” that has seen the event expand to weeks rather than a day. So, the 24-hour period itself just isn’t as unique anymore and the sense of urgency has disappeared.
Another reason is the pandemic effect, with more people shopping online and fewer genuine discounts on offer due to supply chain disruption.
But for all that, there’s something bigger at play. Mass and mega retail events that purely focus on “buy, buy, buy” seem to be increasingly out of step with the mood of the times. Gen Z shoppers in particular are trying to bridge the gap between conscience and commerce.
At the fringe, there are pure anti-consumerism protests, like “Buy Nothing Day”, which coincides with Black Friday in the US. But for most shoppers, that’s a step too far.
What is gaining momentum though, is “conscious consumerism”; being mindful about materialism. (Giving back is becoming more important also – witness “Giving Tuesday”.) You could call it “kinder capitalism”.
In terms of global shopping days, Green Friday is a minnow amongst an ocean of whales, but it’s swimming in the right direction. The message seems clear. Sustainability is just as critical as sales.
Perhaps, more than ever, Green is the new Black.
Forbes.com, Jon Bird