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How not to do Black Friday

Here are some tips for avoiding the Black Friday frenzy and doing something different instead

By Miriam Partington in Berlin

Katie McCourt (right) with Pantee cofounder Amanda McCourt

Every year, businesses and consumers get in a frenzy over Black Friday. Yes, it’s great for companies to earn money and for consumers to get a good bargain, especially when we’re all facing a cost of living crunch. 

The problem is that this period of “consumption on steroids”, as Katie McCourt, cofounder of sustainable underwear brand Pantee, calls it, has a huge impact on the environment. Shipping services are pushed to their limit, pumping increased carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and a big chunk of Black Friday purchases end up in landfill after a few, or even zero, uses. 

If you’re a brand that wants to do something different for Black Friday this year, check out Katie’s ideas from our Startup Life newsletter below.

Do something community-led

Instead of offering huge discounts — the 70, 80, 90% off that big brands like Amazon offer — and pushing advertisements, think creatively about what you can do on Black Friday that will engage your community, and give you an opportunity to reinstate your company values.

Last year, we switched our website to password-only access so that only our community — the people signed up to our mailing list, or those who have bought from us already — could buy from us. The idea was to discourage impulse buying and limit our promotions to our more regular shoppers.

Stay in your lane

Other businesses with higher margins and marketing budgets might be slashing their prices on Black Friday, but that doesn’t mean you have to — especially if you are a small, sustainable brand like us that simply cannot compete with that level of discounting.

This year, we will be offering a few discounts on certain items, and will let our customers know a few weeks before what will be on sale during Black Friday. That way, our customers can plan and budget for their purchases in advance. We think this helps customers go into Black Friday with a considered approach about what they actually need, rather than manipulating them to buy buy buy.

Another option to cutting prices is to offer exciting things as a treat to your community: such as new bundles or new products. (We brought back a few limited-edition underwear sets that we launch periodically during our “colour drops” that we had left over, for instance.) 

Donate your profits to charity

Black Friday is a great opportunity to do something good that aligns with your brand’s mission and values (and a great chance to introduce or reinstate them to new or existing customers).

Outdoor brand Finisterre, for example, ran a “Blue Friday” campaign last year to raise money for its Foundation Wetsuit Project, which adapts wetsuits from any brand for people with physical disabilities. For every wetsuit Finisterre sold, it donated £2.50 to the foundation.

Reusable drinkware brand MiiR also donated its Black Friday profits last year: every dollar spent by customers was donated to its nonprofit partner charity:water. 

Be smart with your comms

Whatever decision you make about how you will approach Black Friday, make sure to wrap it into a concise message and communicate it on your social channels. For us, our core message is essentially “buy what you need and don’t feel bad for getting your deal, but don’t impulse buy”.

As a fashion brand, Instagram and TikTok are our primary channels, but we also communicate with customers via email. Make sure to segment your customers on email between frequent buyers and new shoppers — those who have bought from you a number of times won’t need a whole introduction to your brand, while those who are new will. If you’re going to be offering discounts or other exciting things during Black Friday, you can also tease them on social media in the run up to the event.  

Don’t feel guilty for participating

It’s a tough world out there for brands right now — on top of the cost of living crisis, prices for manufacturing, fulfilment, marketing and customer acquisition are rising sharply; it’s hard for many to make ends meet. On top of that, there’s huge pressure to be more sustainable as a brand (and rightly so!).

As a small business, it can be difficult to make a stand and boycott Black Friday altogether, especially as brands can make the majority of their revenue during this time of year. (Some make more in that period than they do the rest of the year combined.) The key is to stick to your values, do what’s best for your business and be considerate and strategic in your approach.

On the subject of…

🤔 What’s up with Black Friday? The destruction of the environment, that’s what.

🔬 Five alternatives to Black Friday. Try extending your sale window or rewarding especially conscious customers with vouchers.

🛍️ Why retailers can’t afford Black Friday. Small businesses are struggling amid the cost of living crunch — if they plug heavy discounts now, they may lose out on €€ in the run up to Christmas. 

👗Black Friday for fashion brands. If you want to do something for a good cause, you can pledge to donate to Fashion Revolution, which campaigns for a fair and safe fashion industry.

Miriam Partington is Sifted’s DACH correspondent. She also covers future of work, coauthors Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter and tweets from @mparts_

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