Since its introduction to the UK by Amazon in 2010 Black Friday has snowballed with spending in 2015 exceeding £1 billion. This looks set to increase further in 2016 as the occasion morphs into a five day online shopping frenzy from Thursday through to Cyber Monday.
What does Black Friday mean to you? Is it a fantastic time to snag a pre-Christmas bargain and give the economy a much needed jolt in the arm? Or is it consumerism gone mad with an unwanted US cultural import enticing us to spend money we don't have on things we don't need?
The latest polling from the charity Hubbub UK suggests that there is a growing under-current of dislike for Black Friday. The poll revealed two thirds of people don't enjoy taking part in Black Friday and half feel uncomfortable with the conceptwhich black friday. The pressure to take part is highest for the under-35s with four in ten feeling pressured to join in and half saying Black Friday encourages them to buy things they don't need. 45% have spent money they couldn't afford because there was a sale on and 70% have bought sale items they've never used.
It is possible that the bargains they are being offered are not all what they seem. Research from Which? found that 49% of 2015 Black Friday deals in the UK were actually cheaper at other points in the yearmoney charity.
Black Friday builds on the ever increasing pressure to buy your way to a better life and is a contributing factor to UK household debts hitting £1.5 trillion for the first time - the equivalent of 83% of the country's annual income. UK adults now owe an average of £3,737 in loans and credit cards. If inflation increases these debts will become increasingly burdensome.
Are there signs that companies are starting to shift their strategies to reflect public concern? Over in the US change is already happening. Last year outdoor gear company REI closed its stores and paid for its 12,000 employees to do what they love to do most and be outdoors. The subsequent #OptOutside campaign has gained huge traction with 475 organisations promoting the campaign this year.
Retailer Patagonia is closing on Thanksgiving but staying open on Black Friday with the promise to give 100% of global sales on that day to grassroots environmental organisations. The company will promote these groups in stores and online to help customers learn more and get involved.
In the UK there is not yet such a strong counter-culture even though polling discovered that more than half of UK consumer's worry about the environmental impact of buying things we don't need. One campaign that is building momentum is #BrightFriday led by the charity Hubbub that encourages people to explore other ways to spend their Black Friday avoiding the pressure to buy things they might not want or need.
The initial focus for the campaign is a series of events in Brighton where people will be encouraged to rekindle their love for clothes they already have through creating new outfits without buying new, by restyling or refashioning wardrobe gems and borrowing or swapping with friends. Other activities will seek to encourage people to try something new, meet with friends or simple go for walk or cycle ride.
The ambition is that Brighton's #BrightFriday activities will be the first of a series of community campaigns that will snowball throughout the country in subsequent years creating an antidote to Black Friday's consumerist message.
The Hubbub polling suggests that the UK does not fully embrace the Black Friday concept. Whilst for some it is a great opportunity to buy things they need at a lower price for others it creates pressure to buy stuff they don't need increasing personal debt. It seems likely that a growing number of businesses will recognise this concern and start develop counter-culture messages on this day.Suggest a correction