Why I’m no longer interested in Black Friday deals

25 Nov 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

Budget is everything when you’re a student, so getting sucked into sales isn’t all that surprising; but should we be supporting such huge commercial events like Black Friday? Here, Hazel reveals why she’s sitting this one out.

Let me paint you a picture; queues of people waiting in line outside giant department stores (usually from the early hours of the morning, or even the night before), faces tense and feet ready to run.

Then, a staff member quietly appears. The doors open and pandemonium ensues. Normal, civilised people turn into desperate animals, clawing for last season’s reduced material ‘must-have’, and a fist fight over one flat-screen TV isn’t far off the cards.

Pre-pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for consumers to get sucked into this all-American shopping event, where prices are slashed weeks before Christmas for just one day after Thanksgiving.

And, while it’s only really taken off in the UK over the last decade, retailers made it just as big, if not more so, than the Boxing Day sales of the 90s.

As with many things, however, Covid meant the sales moved off the high street and online last year, with shoppers able to indulge from the comfort of the sofa and all at the click of a few buttons.

The online transition was already in motion before this, but, as people grew more accustomed to shopping virtually, it became a no-brainer for most businesses.

Why? Because Black Friday is literally about retailers getting back into the ‘black’ – essentially, into profit. Which isn’t that shocking when the event in 2018 saw UK shoppers spend a whopping £1.49billion via online sales alone (almost double from 2014).

There are some big cons, though, which is why this year I’m taking a stand – and calling for an end to the Black Friday sales.

The environment suffers

It’s no secret that human consumption is harming the planet. As we battle with a consumerist culture more concerned with ‘buying new’ rather than ‘making the most of what we have’, our tech and fashion waste doesn’t even bear thinking about.

But come Black Friday and all good thoughts of sustainability can go out the window when we join the online shopping rush; increasing air pollution through deliveries, receiving items in unnecessary amounts of packaging and failing to recycle the old products we already have.

When you break it down, the eco footprint of these items is huge. It begs the question of whether these sales events could ever be sustainable in the future.

My verdict: Less is more and you can find some absolute gems in charity shops, without the added shipping impact.

Local loses out

Another big issue with Black Friday is that, quite often, smaller businesses lose out because they can’t afford to slash their costs in the same ways as bigger retailers.

This means that these shops either have to lose money to avoid losing customers, or accept that they may lose customers who find similar (but often lower quality) items to their products via the online sales with larger retailers.

However, shopping local often means your purchases have a smaller carbon footprint, especially if you’re shopping with brands who are particularly eco-conscious. Yes, the price may be a little higher, but you’ll probably have a better-quality product that doesn’t hurt the planet to the same extent.

My verdict: Save your pennies and buy just one new dress from your local boutique this term, instead of the usual three from Primark.

You don’t actually need it

Ask most people who shop on Black Friday and, chances are, they’re not actually shopping for anything in particular. And if they are? It’s usually to replace something that already works, or fits, perfectly fine.

In fact, if it wasn’t for the discount, many would probably claim they didn’t need something new at all. The reality is that, instead, they find themselves buying things for the sake of it.

The end result is the local and environmental impacts above. So, why do we still do it?

My verdict: Unless you actually need something in particular, forget Black Friday. Go out for a walk instead.

Do something different

What I’ve highlighted above generally applies to normal consumer sales trends in the UK throughout the year, not just on Black Friday. However, thanks to the time-limiting nature of the big day, it all makes it much more concentrated and somewhat worse.

But why not consider your impact throughout the rest of the year, too? There are even some apps that can help you along the way.

Don’t forget, you can also host your own alternative Black Friday. Not sure how? Click here.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.