Starting in November and carrying through December and January, purchasing around the world seems to be at its peak due to extensive discounts during large-scale shopping events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day and other holiday sales, when stores may offer competitive prices to attract an increased number of customers.
On Black Friday, which may be regarded as the debut of the Christmas shopping season, major retailers generally open early and offer promotional sales. Based on records, Black Friday seems to have been the busiest shopping day of the year since 2005. The sale events continue with Cyber Monday, which offers shoppers the opportunity to make online purchases at discounted prices. While Black Friday has its origins in the United States, it has progressively spread to other countries around the world, including Japan, South Africa, Brazil, Greece, Romania and the UK.
In an attempt to insure safety and proper shopping conditions, for both buyers and stuff, some US states such as Rhode Island, Maine, and Massachusetts allow stores to open after Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November), based on the so-called blue laws, while in other states retailers have total freedom to decide the timetable. Most recently, retailers aiming to get a head start over the competition have begun opening the doors as early as the day prior to Black Friday; this has resulted in lines of shoppers camped outside the stores the day or night before the sale in an attempt to increase their chances of getting their favorite items.
While securing a bargain may be tempting, a conscious buyer may consider common sense and sustainability as guidelines when making purchases. In recent years, different companies have started promoting ethical values and a social agenda, as a way to balance the influx of spending especially around the holiday season. For example, this year the ecommerce retailer Everlane has created a Black Friday Fund in an attempt to buy 8,000 helmets for all their factory workers in Vietnam and insure they ride their bikes safely. Another company committed to supporting charitable causes, Patagonia, announced plans to donate 100% of their Black Friday sales to grassroots environmental groups.
On November 27th, 2010, American Express launched Small Business Saturday, which encourages people to support local businesses. In 2014, American Express took this initiative one step further by helping small business owners, promote their businesses with free personalised ads, which benefited from an ample exposure across the web.
In 2015, REI started a movement to inspire people to embrace the joy, the spirit of renewal and connection which may come from spending time outdoors with family and friends. The company decided to skip Black Friday and pay their 12,000+ employees to spend time outside while encouraging others to do the same. This initiative, which has continued in 2016, is trending on social media under the #OptOutside.
While large-scale shopping events seems to boost the vendors’ revenue, it may also pose questions regarding the ethics of asking retail employees to work, often times long shifts, during the holiday season, about the health and safety of staff, as well as about crowd management. It may be appropriate to offer priority to brands supporting communities and beneficial causes, promote transparency and adopt a policy of fairness in relation to their employees.
Taking steps towards self-awareness and consciousness may help educate individuals become a mindful consumer. When a buying opportunity arises, being thoughtful about the quality of the product, the longevity, value and the impact of the purchase on local communities and the environment may lead to a more ethical and responsible buy.
What ethic rules may retailers respect during the sales season?