Is it just me, or is Black Friday more like Black November this year?? I’ve had emails with Black Friday discounts pinging into my inbox for what seems like weeks now.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a bargain as much as anyone but this year’s seemingly exaggerated hype around Black Friday has really got me thinking about our levels of Christmas inspired consumerism. It’s made me think more about what I buy. And where I buy it from.
For the past two years, I have spent Christmas in South Africa enjoying the sunshine, family time and good wine! This year it’s a more traditional Christmas at home in the UK. But what struck me about Christmas in South Africa (other than the sunshine) is the focus on family, friends and food. Yes, it’s their summer holiday and yes it’s sunny. But it’s still Christmas. Yet there isn’t the surge of consumerism we experience here. The shopping malls are busier than usual, there’s Christmas in the air but it’s not crazy or hyped. There doesn’t seem to be the obsession with buying; presents, decorations, stuff.
Image: Christmas Eve in the Vineyard!
Perhaps it’s also because I’m working a lot closer with smaller independent brands and business owners this year, that I realise the impact of these Black Friday sales. With smaller margins, lower volumes, it’s hard (if not impossible) for small business owners to compete.
So why should we buy independent? For me, it’s because I know I’m getting something special, something considered and something created (more often than not!) with love. I also know that I’m supporting someone else’s business, someone’s vision and dream. It’s personal. It means something.
Buying local is also important. I love that I have those treasure-trove stores just round the corner. That I can chat to the person behind the counter when I pop in. That I can see the colours of a piece before I buy. That I can touch it. And also that I may go in for one thing and then find something completely unexpected that I love even more.
Thought and research has gone into the curation of a store which in itself tells a story. I love that anyone shopping in an independent store becomes part of that story. I also love that on a rainy Saturday I can pop in for a browse. It builds a community.
Now I’m not suggesting that we shun all the big brands or abandon online shopping altogether. It’s neither realistic or practical. I buy online. I use big brands in my design work, and will continue to do so. It just strikes me we should be a little more considered about where we buy from. We shouldn’t take the shop down the road for granted or overlook the independent online retailed in favour of the big giants offering massive reductions.
The #justacard campaign sums it up perfectly for me. It may only be “just a card” but it makes all the difference to those small brands. Especially if everyone buys “just a card”. It’s about changing shopping habits bit by bit. Being considered.
But it’s not just about flying the flag for Indie businesses, the excess of Black Friday has also got me thinking about consumerism in general. Do we just buy too much stuff? Now I like stuff. I like things, and I like buying things for my home. I am also conscious that, as an Interior Designer, I am responsible for filling other people’s homes with things. Beautiful things, but things all the same.
I’m certainly not suggesting we all stop buying things. That would just be silly and actually not helpful to any business owner. We need to buy things; things with a function, things that should, in all cases, spark joy. Isn’t it therefore just about shopping thoughtfully with an eye to who we’re buying from? Making sure we are buying the right things, from the right people?
I may not be in the sunshine, relaxing by the pool for Christmas this year but I’m certainly keeping it family focused. Less about what I buy and more about who I’m with. But there will be presents this year, and there will decorations. And where I can, I’ll be buying local and supporting Indie businesses.