We all like a bargain, don’t we? It’s thrilling!
What is it that excites us so much? – is it because we feel we’re saving money? Perhaps we love the idea of getting something for less money than it is worth? Or do we like the idea that we’ve paid less for an item than somebody else? Whatever it is that pushes our buttons, bargains are big business and Black Friday is the biggest bargain day of all.
Why Does Black Friday Exist?
If you think about it I’m sure you’ll realise that retailers need to make a profit, so they certainly won’t be planning to sell anything at a loss. If they can’t pay their bills then they will go out of business. Sales such as Black Friday is a great way to manage their income:
- – The retailer may be selling old stock to make space for new higher value items (probably still not selling at a loss, but less of a profit)
- – For many items such as high fashion and tech, prices are inflated initially and then lowered when interest is waning. Often this is a matter of weeks as new lines are introduced. It is all planned and the ones who pay most are the ones who MUST have things straight away.
- – Loss Leaders are often used to attract you into the shop. The plan is to attract you buy more once you are there.
- – Often retailers anticipate huge sales on Black Friday so take the risk of buying in bulk and getting a discount.
But the key message is – it is a business transaction. Not a gift.
Retailers need you to spend your money and there is a whole science devoted to getting you to part with your cash, whether you need what you are buying or not. This is not new or wrong, but as a customer you need to be the one in control, choosing exactly what you spend your money on (or not).
Black Friday – the Frenzy
Unfortunately the thought of a bargain does drive some people into a frenzy, and retailers sometimes capitalise on this. ‘Black Friday’ is a recent phenomenon – it’s the day retailers reduce their prices at the start of Christmas shopping. Sometimes retailers open as early as 3am (or even midnight) and offer huge sales. This has led to queues outside, crowd control issues and even violence as consumers adopt a dog eat dog attitude to get the best deals. Really? Knocking someone else out of the way just to get a cheap TV? Enough said.
Black Friday – Shop Ethical Instead
It is becoming increasingly well known that many retailers and brands do not pay a fair price for their products in the first place. In order to offer as low a price as possible it has become the norm to force down the amount paid to the producers and farmers – leading to unsafe working conditions, low pay (or even no pay), child labour and long working hours. Most people, when they think about it, don’t want people to suffer for their bargains, but it is easy to get caught up in the frenzy and miss the point.
Watch the below video to see what happens when consumers were faced with images of what others endure to bring them their bargains…..
There’s also the cost to our environment. Many of these costs won’t be measurable yet but will show themselves in the future. For those of us who watched Stacey Dooley’s ‘Fashion’s Dirty Secrets’ recently there is the image of her standing in a desert, that used to be the Aral Sea until the water was gradually drained away to water mass produced cotton crops.
There are other, more hidden costs too – the costs on our mental health. Do we just buy too much? The film ‘The True Cost’ suggests that our consumer lifestyle has got to the point that many people are constantly dissatisfied with what they have, so buy more and more in the unlikely hope that it will make them happier. After a temporary pleasure they are often disappointed and looking for the next hit – cheaper, lower quality and most of it ending up in landfill.
What Can You Do?
There’s a growing movement to take control back into the hands of customers who want to buy items that are doing good – it’s called Ethical Consumerism. Shopping ethically can mean different things to each of us – local, vegan, fairtrade, organic etc. – but basically it means that you shop according to your personal values instead of the price tag. It means that you are the one make the decisions about what to buy, not being led into making purchasing choices that would make you uncomfortable if you allowed yourself to think about it.
There are a growing number of ethical brands (there’s Where Does It Come From? for example :-)) to choose from, both online and ‘real’. Yes, it is likely that shopping ethically will cost you more money per item – there are good reasons for this – but the key point is that you will then only be buying what you really want or need. Buying less is also a big part of ethical consumerism. Less shopping means less production and less ending up in landfill.
So as we approach Black Friday and then Christmas shopping, take a step back from the adverts, the sales and the pressures and make a list of what you REALLY want or need to buy. Then do your research – online, ask your friends – and find out how to Shop Ethical Instead.
PS. If you are on twitter/facebook/instagram check out the #ShopEthicalInstead hashtag – there’s a lot of ideas there already!