Black Friday – We all know what it is and we all know what it means, huge discounts on every product you could imagine. It was first brought to the UK in the 2010s by big American owned businesses such as Amazon and Asda. By 2014 British retailers began to adopt the concept and Black Friday sales in late November became the norm on this side of the Atlantic.
Over the years it has received much negative press with customers queueing for hours, even days, and literally fighting over bargains. Over the last few years many of the big retailers have attempted to calm the storm by starting their Black Friday sales much earlier, at staggered times and online.
Many small businesses, especially those in the sustainable and eco friendly products industry, have boycotted Black Friday sales claiming, amongst other things, it encourages consumers to buy things they don't need and are pressured into buying it now. Many also claim that it simply funds large multinational retailers and harms small businesses. As a small business, that sells natural products and encourages a zero waste lifestyle, we disagree. Black Friday can be a great opportunity for small, eco friendly businesses, and here's why...
1) In the few years we have been trading we have always, in some form, taken part in Black Friday. Every year, along with our loyal regular customers, we have new first time customers who are using the discount as an opportunity to try zero waste and sustainable products for the first time. Many of who are converted and begin actively looking for other ways to reduce waste. If just one person begins a zero waste journey after a Black Friday purchase, isn't that a success?
2) There is this huge myth that by picking up bargains during Black Friday sales you are somehow funding large corporations. Obviously if you buy directly from the likes of Amazon or the numerous waste creating fast fashion retailers, yes of course you are. But many many small businesses get involved with Black Friday and if you buy from these mini retailers, like us, you absolutely are not putting money into the pockets of the multinationals.
3) Another argument that is often made against Black Friday is that we are all encouraged to buy items that we don't need. Of course we need to be wary of what we are buying and avoid creating needless waste. What we often find is that our customers use the Black Friday discounts to stock up on items they know they will be buying later on down the line. Items that last and will not be wasted. We also see a huge increase in people ticking the “this is a gift” option at the checkout. It is a great opportunity for consumers to pick up gifts at a lower price and, as already mentioned, potentially introducing new people to the idea of zero waste living. People should not be shamed for wanting a bargain.
4) As unpopular as Black Friday is with some people, the truth is British consumers now expect it. Along with most online retailers, we notice a big drop in sales in the two weeks leading up to Black Friday as savvy customers wait to pick up bargains. Black Friday has become a fixture in the UK retail calendar, and is here to stay. Embracing it can really help small businesses.
5) To be very blunt most people start businesses to earn money. Natural Essentoils began with an idea that we thought would sell and make a profit. We have always tried to do things the right way such as ensuring all of our products are natural, cruelty free and suitable for vegans. We don't pack our products in plastic bottles or jars and every order is shipped in plastic free packaging. However, our aim is to make a profit. Black Friday has a huge, positive impact on our bottom line.
Like many small businesses we pay to advertise our products on social media and search engines. Taking part in Black Friday is essentially free advertising to a huge new audience. We cannot ignore that and refuse to take part. Making a profit allows us to reinvest and launch even more eco friendly and zero waste products, just as we have this year.
Black Friday is divisive. There are many people who love it, look forward to it and embrace it. And there are those that genuinely feel it has a huge negative impact. We aren't suggesting that we are right and all those boycotting are wrong. We wanted to explain why it is a good thing for us, why we think it helps small retailers and why we are taking part and offering discounts and encouraging other eco friendly businesses to do the same.