Deep Dive

The dark side of Black Friday

Emma Nunes-Vaz
January 16, 2024

Since the 1960s, Black Friday has secured itself as an unofficial national holiday in the US; with the trend finding its way across the pond and arriving on UK shores by 2010. Following Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of every November, shoppers have gone as far as camping outside stores in their thousands, hoping to get their hands on ‘the best deals of the year’ - with the sales now spanning across the whole weekend and into Cyber Monday, where the focus is on e-commerce and snagging those final ‘unmissable deals’. However, in recent years, there has been a dialogue shift surrounding the shopping phenomenon; with more and more consumers starting to question just how much money they’re really saving - and the effect it’s having on our environment. In today’s blog, we’ll be investigating these concerns, helping you make the best decision for both your pocket and our planet this week!

As mentioned previously, companies state that consumers can find incredible deals over the weekend; enticing them with the promise that they’ll never be able to find these items at such a low price again - especially before the festive season. However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that these sales aren’t actually the best of the year - if anything, they’re really quite average. As the global economy faces more and more turbulence, discounts and sales have become a common occurrence as retailers desperately try to keep their doors open. This is apparent after over 17,000 chain store outlets alone closed in Britain in 2021 following the pandemic. What’s more, after the Autumn budget on the 17th November and the accompanying confirmation by the chancellor that the UK is in a recession, consumers are looking to cut down their spending on non-essential items. Retailers’ reaction is to lower their prices, yet stick the word ‘sale’ in big bold letters on these items so as to sell the idea that consumers are saving money rather than spending it. Shops may also artificially inflate prices in order to make the discounts seem more appealing - and many stores will stock limited quantities of discounted items in order to draw people in, often making it difficult to actually get the item you wanted. If you’re looking to purchase an item, don’t rush into doing so over the sale period - you’ll get just as good of a discount (if not a better deal) if you plan and buy it in accordance with your budget. 

What’s more, these seemingly enticing deals and the lure of immediate gratification (something we’re all a little guilty of!) can make it very easy to overspend during Black Friday sales. Impulse buying can quickly add up to a large amount of money, resulting in financial strain for months - or even years - after the initial purchase; which is even more regrettable when it’s on items you didn’t even want or need. In 2021, CNBC reported that almost 1 in 3 Americans who used credit cards during Black Friday in 2020 were still paying off their debt a year later - and with inflation and interest rates on the rise this is only set to get worse. The herd mentality created by these supposed ‘rare’ deals is notorious for encouraging reckless spending on items we don’t need, and as previously mentioned, the deals aren’t often bargains at all! If there are items you actually need to buy this Black Friday, note them down to avoid purchasing anything else - and don’t be afraid to skip these sales and wait for better deals later in the year. 

Finally, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have an awful impact on the environment. The weekend is a massive contributor to carbon emissions, especially as the holiday moves more online post Covid. The carbon emissions from buying a t-shirt online can be four times higher than buying it in a physical store; due to the energy needed to run warehouses and the emissions from the 82,000 diesel delivery trucks that hit UK roads during the sale season last year, which released an estimated 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. What’s more, each delivery includes lots of packaging - and it’s thought that around 80% of purchases made over the weekend are thrown away after only a few uses; largely because a huge majority of the items bought aren’t ever needed, and / or made of poor quality. 

As you can see, the Black Friday weekend is one that is likely to hurt your wallet as well as the earth, so we encourage avoiding it all together. Instead, if you’re intent on spending, consider giving your money to small, sustainable and independent retailers. Although it may be harder on your pocket, it’ll be exponentially better for the planet - and something you’re likely to use and keep for a long time. As we say here at Incredible, this weekend we encourage you to #ActNowSaveLater, and we’re sure your future self will be thankful if you do! 



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