As Black Friday has mutated from a one-day event into a fortnight of deals, more and more fashion retailers have fallen down the rabbit hole of heavy discounting in the weeks before Christmas.
Several retailers have raced to the bottom on price over the past week– some launching Black Friday “warm-up” deals ahead of the main event – apparently with no regard for their margins. And yet, I am optimistic that we have finally reached a turning point in the frenzy.
The anti-Black Friday movement is beginning to gather momentum, thanks to the growing awareness of the damage our over-consumption of clothing is doing to the planet. Retailers are being called out for extolling the virtues of their sustainability efforts, and then slashing prices to encourage people to buy more.
Perhaps sensing this change in attitude, earlier this year several fashion retailers told us they were planning to scale back their Black Friday discounting, or boycott the event altogether. Among them, designer Christopher Raeburn will close his ecommerce site and London store on Black Friday, for the second year running, and encourage people to bring old clothing into his studio for free repairs instead.
Shoppers increasingly expect brands to have a social conscience, and businesses that take a stance against blanket discounting and the “rampant consumerism” of Black Friday will benefit from a stronger relationship with their customers in the long term.
A change in direction for Black Friday would be welcome for the industry, but particularly for independents. Many have been begging shoppers and their fellow retailers to eschew the discounting day since it arrived on these shores in 2014.
There are enough challenges facing small business owners without throwing more heavy discounting into the mix, as our exclusive survey of more than 130 independent retailers across the UK shows.
It is time for the worst offenders to climb out of the rabbit hole, ditch the never-ending discounts and take a view on Black Friday that supports the future of the whole industry, preserves margins and matches up to the changing expectations of consumers.