The dark reality of Black Friday



Style Editor India Harrison-Peppe offers an alternative spin on Black Friday with a more mindful approach to spending habits.

By India Harrison-Peppe

It's a given that the ongoing winter months are a time of consumption. We gorge on foods, glug down gallons of alcohol and, in recent years, splurge all of our student loans on Black Friday Sales. A typically American holiday, Black Friday is an annual day of shopping. In an attempt to get stock out before the Christmas purchasing period, Black Friday has become a 'holiday' (in the most operative sense of the word) where retailers flog their items for sometimes up to half of their original value.

Undoubtedly, this has meant that Black Friday has amassed a kind of consumerist frenzy in recent years, with some brands sending out emails regarding Friday sales as early as a week before. In America, it’s viewed with a kind of uncontrollable compulsion. In the UK, we hear horror stories of hoards of people being crushed in their attempts to gain entrance to a store and anecdotes of people who wake up at the crack of dawn, desperate to get their hands on the seasons best bargains. Though originating in the US, this is no longer an exclusively American treat. In recent years, we Brits have also been privileged enough to participate in Friday’s festivities.

Unfortunately, I have witnessed the kind of hysteria it routinely provokes in students at University. Black Friday becomes a thing of anticipation, a ceremonial event that people speak about with wide-eyes and bated breath. In our First Year, we treated it almost as if it was a bonding experience. A group of us flocked out of halls and trundled down to Cabot Circus, frantically messaging one another when we thought we had found something worthwhile in another shop which, the week before, we had all confessed to being bored of.

And it’s not just about the uselessness of it all. Black Friday, surprise surprise, is having an absurdly adverse effect on our environment. Greenpeace recently released an article confirming that events like Black Friday are indeed destroying our planet. Not only does the quick turnaround in making these clothes result in toxic water pollution, it has meant that the life cycle of consumer goods has decreased by 50 per cent between 1992 and 2002.

This is the exact kind of problem with Black Friday. It is needless holidays like these that are fuelling the ongoing cycle of Fast Fashion. Brands like Primark, H&M and Urban Outfitters are capitalising off of our unnecessary desire to own things. Though these brands have committed to reducing their stock to avoid waste, Greenpeace argues that these targets are not ambitious enough.

To eradicate the issue, brands like these need to change their marketing strategies altogether. Black Friday sales mean that the already cheap clothing eventually comes up at around next to nothing, which inevitably, leads to more waste, with people like me and you buying things we really don't need. The promise of cheap and cheerful deals speaks to us on a very subliminal and dangerous level, and profit incentive for these retailers means that abstaining from the Black Friday sales is a no-go.

With online shopping gradually becoming our most popular way to shop, the ease with which we can purchase, return and get hold of our desired items means we are buying disproportionately more than we used to. Accessibility means constant availability, and continuous availability means that buying something online requires the minimum amount of exertion and effort. Combined with ridiculously low prices, the amount of packages being shipped residentially is enormous. This increases exponentially around Black Friday and arguably does not abate until after the Christmas Period.

It would seem logical, that after the hype generated around Stacey Dooley’s recent fast fashion documentary, these retailers would make an effort to criticise these commercial campaigns. But no, I'm sure I'm not alone in being subject to hundreds of GIFS jumping all around my newsfeed and emails flooding my inbox pronouncing these half-priced sales.

While discourse surrounding fast fashion is clearly in the right place, with consumers seeming to be more aware of the questionable ethics behind these brands than ever before, the retailers themselves seem reluctant to relinquish their participation in the Friday Frenzy.

As the Christmas Period encroaches upon us, I ask us to be mindful. Not only are we destroying our environment, but we are affecting our mindset too. The Guardian confirms that with studies carried out across a diverse set of demographics, their is validity to the statement that relentless consumerism leads to a lesser sense of satisfaction with life.

Spending without thinking can lead to aggression, depression and a depleted sense of self-worth. So let's all get a bit more zen and a little less zealous this Christmas, spend less and gain more, both in head, heart and habitat.

Featured Image: Philipp Balunovi / Unsplash

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