Like Christmas and Easter and Mother’s Day, Black Friday is now a celebration of consumerism, a shopping frenzy day on which we are cynically persuaded to spend, spend, spend. Responding to clever advertising, we buy stuff that perhaps we don’t need or even want. There will be sales, discounts and offers we can’t resist. We will impulse buy and fall for the bargains simply because they are bargains. UK shoppers are expected to spend £9.2 billion.1
Most of this stuff will be sold on the huge marketing platforms like Amazon. Their marketing folk will have spent months gearing up their advertising strategies to persuade us that we really need those shiny new things, and they will reap record amounts in profit. Milburn, a US shop manager, describes the months of planning leading up to those bargain days and how the benefits were for them, not the consumers: ‘But, of course, those so-called deals weren’t designed for your benefit. We weren’t strategising hoping to find ways to save you money: to assist the cost-conscious single mom, to help the nuclear family create a more memorable Christmas. No, no, no. Rather, we scoured our plans for every possible way to help—help you to part with your money, that is. The sale got you in the door, but the deal was not a deal at all… Truth be told, the Black Friday deals aren’t actually that good.’2
Fighting against this cynically planned encouragement to consume is a Facebook group called Not on Amazon set up a year ago, and now with 157,000 members. Their members agree that ‘the only winners on Black Friday are giant-scale businesses whose profits are split between their shareholders.’3 There is a gathering momentum to reject the clarion call to gullible punters to spend money they can’t afford to fill the coffers of monopolies like Amazon. ‘This Friday, independent retailers across the country will shut down their websites, donate their profits to charity and plant trees as part of a renewed drive against the rabid consumerism encouraged by large online sellers offering deals for Black Friday.’4 We are joining them.
For small, innovative and independent retailers, Black Friday is a day of fewer customers and fewer sales as people hunt for bargains on the huge online sales platforms. ‘Black Friday is decimating the high street – it’s the Grinch that has stolen Christmas from smaller retailers. Small retailers don’t want to pay 30% commission to an online giant, they don’t want their things coming out of a fulfilment warehouse. They just want to be able to serve their customers.’5
The more we buy, the more we throw away, and the deeper are the landfill sites. Sophie de Taranto of Shutter Jewellery, says, ‘I try to do whatever I can to reduce waste. I’ll be planting 100 trees to give back to the planet rather than padding to the overconsumption by tempting people to buy more than they want or need.’5 Our planet and its species are under threat from the behaviour of humans, including the detrimental and unnecessary impact of increased waste. ‘Americans produce 25 percent more waste than usual between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, sending an additional one million tons a week to landfills?’ 6 In the UK, a recent report by money.co.uk 4 described Black Friday as a ‘climate menace’ because ‘Black Friday home deliveries this year will churn out 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.’ And that’s without taking into account the production and life cycle of what we buy. Get this – ‘up to 80% of our Black Friday purchases are simply thrown away after just one or even zero uses’.4
To show our agreement and sympathy with movements that reject rampant consumerism and its impact on our planet, we will sell no books on Black Friday. Not that we exactly clog up the landfill sites. We are a tiny, independent, woman’s press 7 and sell in hundreds not tens of thousands. Our readers choose our books because they support our ethos, love exceptionally fine writing, and reject the much-hyped, formulaic, disappointing publications churned out by mainstream presses. From what readers tell us, we know our books are loved and treasured. Even so, we will not sell on Black Friday as an act of solidarity, and will instead reflect on how we can do more to work with, not against, our fractured, vulnerable planet.