Black Friday, which occurs on the day after the American holiday, Thanksgiving, has garnered huge popularity on an international scale in recent years; it is now seen as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. A popular explanation of the phrase is the point of the year when retailers begin to turn a profit, thus going from being ‘in the red’ to being ‘in the black.’ Black Friday is no longer recognised by shoppers as a one day phenomenon, the Monday immediately following Black Friday is known as Cyber Monday; which has now morphed into Cyber Week.
Black Friday this year fell on Friday November 29th 2020. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Ireland was still at Level 5 of the Government’s Framework. This meant that all non-essential retail was closed to the public. Instead, many businesses opted to offer online deals through their social media pages and websites. However, it was mainly international corporations, such as Amazon, who engaged with the ‘shopping holiday.’ Research from Adobe suggests that Irish consumers spend about 250 million euro on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with 60% of Irish people shopping online in the sales.
The environmental impact of Black Friday has come to the forefront this year. The US Postal Service estimates that it will deliver 900 million packages, the week after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. An Post are already delivering 2.5 million parcels per week in Ireland, with the figure set to rise as the Christmas period kicks in. Furthermore, 60% of the clothing produced by fast-fashion companies will end up in incinerators or landfills within the next year and when it comes to electronics, only 20% of materials can be recycled, leaving the rest to leak out toxins in a landfill. In addition to this, according to Which?, nearly nine in ten products on sale during Cyber week were found to be on offer previously, for the same price or cheaper.
Many news outlets and representative groups for retailers urged consumers to consider supporting Irish businesses this year, by promoting ‘Green Friday’ as a replacement to supporting the international market and conglomerates. Champion Green estimated that if consumers spend an extra 50 million euro with local businesses, it would give the economy a boost of 180 million euro. Retail Excellence, the largest representative body for the retail industry in Ireland, called on the public to support Irish businesses after the worst retail year in history.
The retailer Debenhams went into liquidation after Covid-19 worsened the difficulties faced by the store. However, in order to clear stock, the company is still running an online store and ran Black Friday deals. There have been calls from former Debenhams staff for people to boycott the department store’s website when they are purchasing presents this year. “Any money that’s made on Debenhams.ie is actually going to England” explained Valerie Condon, Mandate Trade Union shop steward at the Patrick Street store. Ms. Conlon urged consumers to support local businesses and buy Irish this Christmas. The workers have been locked in a dispute with the store’s liquidator, KPMG, over redundancy terms. KPMG confirmed that 953 people lost their jobs when Debenhams Ireland became insolvent however Debenhams offered the statutory redundancy to its workers, irrespective of how long they worked at the firm. Thomas Gould, Cork North Central TD, questioned in the Dáil last week whether the liquidators were entering into negotiations in good faith. “They have been on strike for 230 days now. They deserve to be at home for Christmas with their families. The workers are willing to engage in these talks.”