Black Friday Feels Like Peer Pressure: Why We're Not Participating in Black Friday or Cyber Monday

Graphic reading: Black Friday Feels Like Peer Pressure @FoldAndFray

Navigating a weekend like Black Friday can be a very conflicting experience. Whether you're a business or an individual, there's continuous pressure to produce, buy and consume. Black Friday and Cyber Monday reflect this. 

On one hand, as a consumer, Black Friday can be an opportunity to buy something you regularly cannot afford. But, Black Friday can also lead you to buy stuff you don’t truly need simply because it's “cheap” or marketed attractively. Black Friday, and Fast Fashion in general, can result in wasteful purchasing behaviour with most items destined to end up in the landfill. Despite the positive reasons a brand or individual may choose or need to participate, Black Friday can be a symbol of putting consumerism before well-being. 

Experiencing Black Friday for the first time as a business is staggering. It feels like peer pressure. I’ve received marketing emails on how to maximize sales for Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) since August. The conversation is never about whether or not to do Black Friday/Cyber Monday. But the assumption is that everyone does it and if you don’t have a strategy then you’re missing out. Instagram even recently rolled out a new button entirely for shopping. The integration of shopping with platforms we use for connection is becoming more subversive. When you hear or see something enough times, it starts to feel normal. And because this weekend has become so normalized, choosing not to participate isn’t usually presented as an option. However if you’re a brand with the privilege to opt out, consider what saying no to this kind of blatant consumerism might mean, and if there’s another way you can serve your community.

Making sales is an essential part of running a business, but I believe that how and why you do it is just as important. Profit should not come before people and the planet. In a time when many small businesses are struggling financially, Black Friday may be the only opportunity for a business to stay afloat. A store may need to participate in Black Friday to survive, and if you’re a sustainable business, it’s a multifaceted problem. It’s important to recognize that not everyone has the privilege to opt in or out. So, how do you navigate ethics, sustainability and integrity within a world that constantly asks you (and your business) to conform? 

In a recent lecture from The Slow Factory, a slide from Sonica Sarna read “The true purpose of building a sustainable brand is to create a conscious community that isn’t focused on consumption, but on well being.” 

Fold and Fray will not be participating in Black Friday or Cyber Monday. I believe there’s a way to provide the accessible pricing that Black Friday offers without complying with this weekend and what it represents. Fold and Fray will integrate a lower-priced section next month that will be available year round. This decision is based on the idea that sustainability should not have gatekeeping, and Black Friday should not be the only way you can afford something. 

Some questions to ask as you go into this weekend or think about making a purchase

  • Am I only thinking of buying this because I got a promotional email, or because of social media?
  • Am I buying this just because it’s “cheap”?
  • Do I really need this?
  • Can I afford to opt out and not participate in Black Friday?
  • Could I support a local maker or independent small business instead?
  • Does the brand offer plastic-free shipping? ("compostable" mailers don’t count)

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