The rise of Green Friday

2020 has been a year of monumental change for the retail industry. Many brands have had to transform the way they operate, investing in and relying on their digital capabilities to engage customers as periods of local and national store closure become commonplace.

As well as forcing companies to pivot their business models, the pandemic has of course changed what products consumers are buying and where they are buying from. Data from McKinsey and Co, released in July, highlights a growing number of younger consumers who intend to purchase more second-hand fashion items after the crisis as well as increasing purchases from smaller or lesser-known brands. Consumers are also increasingly open to purchasing more durable fashion items that can be repaired for extended use, with 67 per cent considering the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor.

As we approach the most important retail sales period of the year, the trends that have emerged raise an interesting question: has COVID-19 prompted the beginning of the end for Black Friday? Are consumers less interested in buying new products this winter? Could Green Friday soon become the new seasonal trend? Or are consumers, who have become increasingly price sensitive, about to partake in one of the biggest Black Fridays ever?

Green Friday as a concept urges consumers to oppose Black Friday and the “irresponsible consumption” it entails. It is an idea that has been moving quickly into the mainstream and is gaining traction across traditional and social media. Hudson Sandler Insights show a 290% increase in news mentions and a 107% increase in social media mentions over the past three years, indicating a growing consumer interest.

The movement, and rising conscious consumerism as a result of COVID-19, is changing how some brands are approaching this period. In previous years brands such as Patagonia, a company built on social purpose, have championed “doing good” instead of buying new products by matching donations from consumers through its Action Works platform. This approach is now permeating into more mainstream retail – one example being UK lifestyle brand and Hudson Sandler client Joules, which will be planting a tree per transaction on behalf of customers. These actions help to provide consumers with an opportunity to reimagine their spending on Black Friday and give back to community and environmental initiatives in the process.

The purpose-driven consumer is increasingly aware of how businesses are driving a more positive impact on the planet, their people and the communities where they operate, and purpose-driven initiatives may soon push Black Friday onto the backburner. But brands need to back up Green Friday initiatives with substantive and authentic environmental and social initiatives all year round to avoid claims of ‘greenwashing’.

It’s becoming ever-present that the way consumers shop this Black Friday is going to differ to recent years. With a growing movement towards sustainable materials and more consumers buying from smaller brands who have limited ability to lower prices, as well as the exponential growth of Green Friday, it’s possible that the way we have viewed this window of discounting is about to change.