The US import that is Black Friday has infiltrated the whole of the British High Street in recent years, with discount deals on everything from electronics to clothes and even takeaways. But with retailers, manufacturers and the supply chain all struggling with issues caused by the perfect storm of Covid-19 and Brexit, and an increased awareness and concern about climate change amongst consumers, is Black Friday really still relevant in the UK?
The sustainable fashion world has long preached the dangers of over-consumption, and as climate change has become front of mind for consumers many high street brands have jumped on the band waggon, claiming sustainability whilst encouraging consumers to buy more for less.
From a sustainability point of view there are three main issues with Black Friday: over consumption, transportation and waste.
A UK Parliament report in 2019 found that the UK buys more clothes per person than any other European country, and this propensity to consume encourages the growth of fast fashion, which supports over-consumption and generates vast amounts of waste. With an estimated 100 billion items of clothing being produced every year, over-production is literally costing the earth.
The shift towards online shopping, particularly over the extended Black Friday period means more sales need to be shipped to customers. Supply chain transportation (getting the goods to the store or warehouse) already creates a significant proportion of the emissions created by a product, but these 'last mile' emissions caused by shipping to a consumer can be significantly more. Small loads in vans over the Black Friday shopping period are likely to churn out 429,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases in the UK alone, the equivalent to 435 flights from London to New York.
Every year an estimated 300,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK.
The increase in online shopping means more products are returned, and a worrying proportion of these returns are sent straight to landfill. An investigation by ITV News a few months ago revealed that Amazon is destroying millions of items of unsold and returned stock every year.
It's not only big companies that are guilty of this throw-away culture. Many consumers will buy products and clothing during Black Friday sales which they will throw away less than a year later.
Black Friday 2021
At 69b Boutique we do not support the mass consumption and buying hysteria created by events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and we think it's important we try to address the issue.
We won't be offering any discounts for Black Friday 2021. Instead we will be donating all profits from products sold from Friday 26th to Monday 29th November to the Tower Hamlets Women’s Inclusion Team (WIT).
WIT is a buzzing social enterprise in Tower Hamlets run by women for women, with a mission to deliver vital services like training, employment, information and advice to marginalised communities in the East End.
During the pandemic WIT immediately responded by filling a gap in support for vulnerable people in Tower Hamlets by recruiting 200 volunteers and setting up a food bank and community kitchen to provide food parcels and daily hot meals to hundreds of people during lockdown.
It's a cause that's particularly close to our hearts, as one of our team has been volunteering there for years.