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Black Friday: Should consumers and brands opt in or out?

By Simone Preuss


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While some consumers, brands and retailers reject big sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday as environmentally damaging and decide to opt out, others jump right in and count the days until the big event, ready to give deep discounts on retailer side and ready to spend on consumer side. FashionUnited has put together an overview of this year’s Black Friday jaysayers and naysayers.

Record sales

In the UK, Black Friday high street footfall increased by 6 percent compared to Black Friday 2018, defying prior warnings that footfall would drop and despite a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty and an imminent general election. On the Saturday and Sunday of the weekend, high street footfall was also up 6.8 percent and 2.9 percent respectively, according to foot traffic analysis company ShopperTrak. Overall footfall for the year is 0.2 percent higher than the same period in 2018.

In the US, consumers had already spent 2.1 billion dollars via online retail as of early morning of Thanksgiving Day, according to stats compiled by LicenseGlobal, raising the year-on-year digital growth for the period to 20.2 percent. By early afternoon the same day, the US online spent doubled to 4.2 billion dollars. Noteworthy, 34.5 percent of all online sales were done via smartphone.

Black Friday may be splitting opinion but once again, UK shoppers spent more despite them finding the American shopping phenomenon less appealing. A survey conducted by PwC showed that UK consumers are increasingly cynical about Black Friday deals. Other countries tracked for data include the opinions of consumers in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and South Africa, all of whom are more enthusiastic about Black Friday than the UK.

Those brands and retailers observing record sales will not complain about sales events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even Singles Day. Here are some Black Friday winners by merchandise sold:

Black Friday deals boost fashion sales at John Lewis

London based high-end department stores John Lewis total sales for the week ending December 3, 2019 were up 60.4 percent on the same week as last year, with Black Friday taking place a week later this year. Fashion sales were up 71 percent compared with the same week last year with a record week of sales across menswear, nursery and beauty with best sellers including premium fragrances, Barbour clothing for both men and women and the Joie Spin infant car seat.


Zalando declares record Cyber Week results

Photo: Zalando Facebook

Berlin-based e-commerce company Zalando announced that it acquired a record-breaking number of around 840,000 new customers during its fifth Cyber Week. The company said in a statement that this year’s shopping event, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, led to 32 percent GMV growth compared to last year’s Cyber Week. The most-purchased articles during Black Friday were black leggings, logo t-shirts and black sneakers.


Anti Black Friday

Then there are others who point to the flip side of big shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Co.: Especially online, returns can go through the roof, costing retailers and the environment in the long run. FashionUnited has put together a few such cautious voices.

Photo: Lisa Fotios, Pexels

Black Friday online returns cost fashion retailers 1.6 billion pounds

The impact of Black Friday returns on UK retail has been revealed, and it’s not pretty. The returns from Black Friday Weekend alone is set to be as high as 250 million pounds, this year’s online returns is predicted to cost fashion retailers 1.6 billion pounds, according to returns management platform ReBound Returns.


The real cost of Black Friday discounting

As the craze for bargains and discounted fashion drove people to the high street on the Black Friday weekend, there is a dark cloud above the rails hanging full of tantalising deals. The reality is that brands and businesses are not offering cheaper items for the good of mankind, they are sitting on excess stock that needs to be shifted. Which, if remained unsold, would eat away at profits at the end of the financial year.


Why French lawmakers want to ban Black Friday promotions

On the basis of a study conducted by the UFC-Que Choisir, French MPs and former Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho brought a measure before the French Parliament to end Black Friday in the country. It took the form of an amendment to the anti-waste bill. If the amendment is implemented in practice, Black Friday promotions would be considered “aggressive commercial practices”, which under French law is punishable with a two-year prison term and a 300,000 euro fine.


Approaches by individual brands

While MUD jeans increased its prices as a signal against over consumption and Swiss upcycled bag maker Freitag kept its online shop closed on Black Friday, there are various strategies that brands followed to express their take on the shopping day. FashionUnited has put a few together for inspiration.

3 brands ditching discounts and doing their own thing on Black Friday

While some retailers earn more during Thanksgiving weekend than they do the rest of the year, others are opting out of the occasion or celebrate it in ways that don’t involve heavy markdowns - either because the strategy isn’t so advantageous for the business or because the brand identity doesn’t go well with excess consumerism. American outdoor brand REI, American online clothing retailer Everlane and French footwear company Veja, for example, disapprove of Black Friday.


Vagabond Shoemakers takes a conscious approach to Black Friday sales

Photo: Vagabond Shoemakers Facebook

During the time of year when brands and retailers mark down prices and aim to boost sales for the holiday season, Vagabond Shoemakers has taken a different approach: In an effort to avoid overconsumption, the footwear brand did not offer a Black Friday discount for its customers. Instead, the Swedish brand has donated 10 percent of its revenue made over the weekend towards increasing security for people who reside in areas with high levels of violence.


Photo: John Henderson, Flickr

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