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 or the hottest Christmas toy. But what is the history of Black Friday? And could it actually be causing more harm than we realise?
What is the history of Black Friday?
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).
For the past several decades, Black Friday has been dominated by massive sales, which now often span the entire weekend after Thanksgiving in the US. Some stores have even begun staying open on Thanksgiving Day itself to prolong the sale period even more. Many places have also extended their trading in order to remain open for 24 hours! During these sales, huge discounts are usually offered, as well as some special giveaways and freebies. Because of these impressive deals, the hysteria surrounding Black Friday has only grown over the years.
In fact, people often become crazed and don’t think twice about pushing or trampling down others in order to get the deals or items they want. There have actually been reports of violence on Black Friday; since 2006, there have been at least 12 deaths and 117 injuries throughout the US. Prospective shoppers even tend to sleep outside stores all night, so that they’ll be the first in line to snag the good deals. In the UK, these practices are following the US pattern, with increasing reports involving shoppers and the police as fights break out over purchasing in a frenzied manner.
Black Friday is a huge spending boon to the retail industry. 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 alone. So, it would definitely seem that Black Friday is not a phenomenon that will be going away any time soon.
What are the problems with Black Friday?
Even though people can’t seem to stop themselves from shopping on Black Friday, there are actually many problems with the concept. Because retailers are so eager to make money, they end up advertising their products using Black Friday simply as a marketing ploy. This means that a lot of people end up rushing out to stores and buying things they don’t actually need. Items they don’t need quickly become items that get thrown out, which leads to a hugely negative impact on the environment. All that waste ends up hurting us – all around the globe – including the people who don’t shop on Black Friday.
Besides the environmental aspect, there’s also a negative psychological effect that occurs with Black Friday shoppers. Because of the intense need to find good deals or to win free stuff, people basically become aggressive and hostile towards their fellow shoppers and/or store employees. Consumers have become obsessed with endless overspending, and with this greed comes needless debt. Retailers have found that people are buying even more every year.
In the US, instead of getting into the holiday spirit by spreading goodwill and cheer, consumers are more focused on camping out all night on Thanksgiving to snag the best deals (and they don’t mind if they have to trample on someone to get it, or if their purchases turn out to be items they don’t really need). And that’s the problem with fast fashion and other retail industries. Although products might be more convenient or cheaper to buy, the true cost of them is much more serious. More damage to our global environment with increased pollution means that Black Friday could actually be causing more harm than good.
Why doesn’t Protected Species hold Black Friday sales?
We here at Protected Species believe that having less is actually the most liberating thing you can do. We think that products should be meant to last a lifetime and they should be necessary to own, have multi-functional use, and as such, work 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 in the game of manufacturing product 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. We’d rather our brand consist of items that will help support your lifestyle instead of items that are purchased simply because they’re cheap and on sale during Black Friday weekend.
Protected species from time to time do offer sales which we will continue to do this at certain periods of the year. These are genuine sales of current lines, and where possible, we offer these to our existing Protected Species community.
Some people might look at the history of Black Friday and note that the trend has done a lot to help the worldwide economy. However, there’s a darker side to Black Friday, too – 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 because of the 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. We do all feel good about bagging a bargain but So maybe it’s time we all think twice before supporting this holiday, and instead try to hold up companies that are working to produce sustainable products that won’t hurt our environment, and that we can treasure long after the holiday season has ended.
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