This year, Black Friday has evolved into Black Thursday, with big retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Kohl's, and J.C. Penney opening their doors to rabid shoppers on Thanksgiving day. According to the National Retail Federation, 140 million people will be shopping over the holiday weekend. While most businesses are drumming up sale techniques to lure shoppers into spending more money, Patagonia has taken a vastly different approach.
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The outdoor apparel company has launched an anti-Black Friday campaign, urging shoppers to repair their old Patagonia gear instead of buying new items. It's launched a partnership with iFixit to provide repair guides for every type of Patagonia gear, from jackets to clothing to luggage. This initiative is also coming to life in 15 select retail locations in Austin, Boston, Cardiff, Chicago, Denver, New York, Palo Alto, Portland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Seattle, Ventura, and Washington DC. Starting at 4pm on Black Friday you can bring your old, beat-up Patagonia gear to these locations to have it professionally repaired, enjoy food, beer, and live music, and watch screenings of their new "Worn Wear" short film, which follows a champion skier, surfer, and other outdoor enthusiasts in their well-loved Patagonia gear.
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"This Black Friday, when deals and discounts entice people to buy more than they need, Patagonia would like to send an alternative message to its friends, family and customers, one that explores the quality of the things we own and the lives we live," the brand wrote in an e-mailed statement. Patagonia is already spreading the word on social media with hashtags #AntiBlackFriday and #BetterThanNew.
A retailer who encourages their customers to stop shopping? It seems like a marketing ploy or some kind of reverse psychology. One might argue that a brand who is truly anti-Black Friday should shut their doors and encourage people to avoid stores altogether. Or that if they're really concerned about their environmental impact, then perhaps they should stop manufacturing products overseas to reduce their carbon footprint. Or that if they're so anti-consumerism then perhaps they shouldn't be an international retailer with 30 locations in this country alone. But Patagonia claims to want to produce high-quality, long-lasting items and educate their shoppers.
In fact, this is not the first time the eco-friendly brand has taken a stance against excess consumerism. In 2005, founder Yvon Chouinard started the Common Threads Initiative, which pledges to "build useful things that last, to repair what breaks, and recycle what comes to the end of its useful life." They ask that their customers "agree to buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else." Patagonia also published a controversial, full-page, anti-Cyber Monday ad in the New York Times in 2011 that said "Do Not Buy This Jacket." They elaborated on the campaign saying, "Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time - and leave a world inhabitable for our kids - we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else."
An #AntiBlackFriday business strategy seems counter-intuitive, but last year Chouinard told the Wall Street Journal that Patagonia's controversial Cyber Monday ad actually helped sales in 2011. Not in quantity, but it successfully lured customers away from competitive brands. And perhaps shoppers with a conscience will have another reason to justify paying top dollar for coats that are more affordable from other less eco-friendly brands.
Readers, what do you think of Patagonia's anti-Black Friday campaign: Marketing ploy or refreshing timeout from holiday consumerism?
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