High Street Fashion On Black Friday: The Truth

Worried about missing out on deals on high street fashion on Black Friday? I’ve got a few secrets to share with you…

While many high streets are shut this year, high street brands are desperately trying to get us to shop online with them instead. Big discounts! Huge sales! Roll up, roll up!

But the sad truth is, most of the UK high street brands are selling clothes that are:

  • Very low quality
  • Made from materials that are harmful to the environment
  • Designed not to last
  • Made by majority women and people of colour in unethical conditions
  • Are very often thrown away after use

In short, these brands are selling you fast fashion. And you can easily get way better clothes, that treat people and planet better, and are designed to last, from other online fashion brands. You just need to know where to look – which is why I’ve created this guide for you today…

(Note: All of the photos in this post are from Black Friday 2019. And yes, those are french fries on the floor next to the skirts.)

7 Troubling Facts About Black Friday

1. The day is named ‘Black Friday’ after police officers got frustrated by traffic caused by shoppers. The colour is supposedly a reference to car exhaust fumes and smog.

2. Instead of an increase in shopper traffic, this year’s Black Friday is estimated to see a rise in delivery traffic, with Professor Greg Marsden from Leeds University confirming expectations of a Black Friday carbon dioxide surge.

3. During this sales period, it’s tech and clothes that are the most popular items, with over 50% of shoppers predicted to buy electronic goods and nearly a third buying high street fashion on Black Friday.

4. According to research by Green Alliance and Waste Recovery, up to 80 per cent of these electronic and clothing items end up as waste. The items – and any plastic packaging they come in – will end up in landfill, incineration, or low quality recycling at best.

5. Despite these predictions, lockdown has reduced interest in Black Friday, according to PwC. It seems there is generally less enthusiasm around the day, especially amongst people aged 18-25.

6. But then again, is Black Friday even worth getting excited for? Close to 9 in 10 product prices were the same or cheaper earlier in year, according to a 2020 report by Which?

7. And on the flip-side, rubbish is expected to grow during the period between Black Friday and New Year’s Day, with 25% more trash per household in the US, and similar trends elsewhere. Cardboard boxes now make up just under 50% of curb-side recycling in some areas – up from just 15% in 2005.

How To Shop Better On Black Friday

Now that we’ve established that Black Friday sales are, for the most part, not good for us as shoppers, or workers, or citizens of the planet, is it worth even taking part in it?

Last year I asked the question ‘To shop or not to shop on Black Friday?’, because I don’t necessarily think boycotting the sales is the best idea either. I’ve had times in my life where money was tight, and sometimes I would have to wait for a sale before I could buy an item I needed. Black Friday, and other sales periods, do provide additional access for some people to get items they do need and will use.

That being said, I do have a few recommendations on how to shop more sustainably in this sales period. To shop better on Black Friday, ask yourself:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Could I buy it second-hand instead?
  3. Could I buy it from an ethical brand instead?
  4. Does the retailer pay their taxes and pay their staff fairly?
  5. Can I choose a more eco-friendly delivery service?

In addition to those questions, try these five tips to make more sustainable shopping choices:

  • Make a list of items you’re looking for ahead of Black Friday
  • Check second-hand sites for these items, and look for local sellers for both speed and reduced carbon impact
  • Scroll down for some ethical alternatives to high street brands
  • Avoid the ‘Big A’ and go for retailers like John Lewis* or Etsy*
  • Select Royal Mail as your delivery service if you can – it’s seen as the most carbon-conscious due to its network of neighbourhood postal workers.

Better Alternatives To High Street Fashion on Black Friday

So, to help you shop better, here’s a list of brands that are producing similar style clothing as high street brands, but in a way that better supports people and planet.

(Plus, if you want the full details of issues with each retailer, take a look at my guide: 70+ UK Fast Fashion Brands).

P.S. It’s Ok If You Can’t Avoid Fast Fashion…

Finally, I wanted to note that while better buying decisions do make a difference, it’s not your responsibility to clean up the fashion industry just by buying better.

The poor labour conditions, the low pay, the high speed of production, and the large environmental impact that these brands have is the responsibility of high street fashion brands’ founders, directors, and shareholders. This small group of people profits from these unethical practices, and I’m talking billions of pounds each year. Not you.

If you’d like to rally against these unethical conditions, I recommend supporting campaigns such as:

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