Black Friday and what it means to us

It’s hard to mark the beginning of the holiday season without first acknowledging Black Friday. This day is the name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States (although Black Friday has become more of a worldwide phenomenon as of late). You probably associate the term with crazy crowds of people willing to mow each other down to get the latest in electronics. But what is the history of Black Friday? And has it morphed into something slightly more sinister?

The earliest record of the term ‘Black Friday’ being applied to the day after Thanksgiving and shopping seems to be from 1961 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many people noticed that this day was marked annually with heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic as people rushed out to start their holiday shopping. So, where does the term Black Friday come from? It’s believed that retailers started using the term specifically because this date marked when they would start making a profit – going from being ‘in the red’ to being ‘in the black.’ The name became even more popular when the history of Black Friday sales showed that it was the busiest shopping day of the entire year (since 2005). 

Often now spanning an entire week, retailing at this period attracts all day and often night working for staff, camping out outside shops (sometimes overnight), and regular scuffles to clamber over someone with their hands on any 25% off item. It is true, this retailing period does boost the economy and, in fact, last year’s estimates show that nearly $59.6 billion was spent during the Black Friday weekend in the US, and a reported 1.49 billion spent with online UK retailers only, here at home. So, it would seem that Black Friday may not be a phenomenon that will be going away any time soon.

Why doesn’t Protected Species hold Black Friday sales?

We here at Protected Species don’t want to sound too sanctimonious about this – we are a retailer of women’s lightweight waterproof jackets after all – but we are firm believers that having less is the only real way to offer a sustainable way of life and that not needing to update our wardrobes on a cyclical basis is really rather liberating. We engineered our collection of women’s waterproof coats specifically with hoods to offer water tight functionality. A necessary product that we hope lasts a lifetime, has multi-functional use and as such works really hard. 

We are shoppers ourselves and we do genuinely understand that Black Friday may offer the opportunity for cash savings which we all could do with especially on the run up to Christmas. However, are we really getting a bargain?  Black Friday is an opportunity to exploit and many retailers, especially in the clothing arena, are now, more often than not, manufacturing products for “sale” periods. Lighter weight fabrics, lower quality yarns, cheaper factory processes are just some of the cynical ways the clothing industry uses this time of year to gain profits – are you really getting that 20% off? 

Genuine sales are better for our company so we can focus on bringing you well-made products developed through sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Of course, we do offer discounts, as everyone does, but these are on the genuine article and are used to move stock through the system to avoid financial crisis, rather than made specifically to increase profits. We’d also prefer for our collection to end up in your wardrobe because you have a use for them, love the look and feel of your women’s lightweight waterproof jacket, and want to wear them every day and for many years into the future. We would love to think our customers are driven to us for those reasons over and above a “sale” price.

Some people might look at the history of Black Friday and note that the trend has done a lot to help the worldwide economy and I am sure this can be argued. However, there’s a darker side to all this which needs to be factored  the “value” of this sale holiday – one that consists of retail employees having to work ridiculous hours, products being made from cheap labour in inhumane conditions to target that “sale” price, and severe damage being done to our environment through over production and eventual waste from these products. 

A recent survey showed that over 53% of people regretted at least one item they had bought in the Black Friday sale. As stated at the beginning of this article we really don’t want to sound too sanctimonious, we love bagging a good bargain too! Could the question be, is the cost really worth it and are we really getting what we think we are buying?