Retail

Spend less, not more: Why this retailer is turning Black Friday on its head

Matthew Elmas /

Black Friday

Citizen Wolf wants customers to spend less, not more, this Black Friday. Source: Supplied.

Local hype is building ahead of Black Friday this week as a laundry list of big name brands prepare to try and capitalise on growing interest in the American shopping holiday Down Under.

But not everyone is on board. Sydney-based label Citizen Wolf is actually urging customers to keep wallets in their pockets on Friday.

Co-founder Zoltan Csaki wants to change the narrative on the growing prominence of shopping holidays with a timely warning about the effect of rampant consumerism on the environment.

“The central problem with the fashion industry globally is overproduction,” he tells SmartCompany.

“It’s kind of insane when you think about it. Traditionally, promotions are to clear stock that’s not moving.

“But if you’re making more stuff only to then put it on discount in the hope you might sell it … there’s a problem of constant oversupply,” he says.

The fashion label is offering its first 250 customers on Friday an opportunity to participate in ‘Black Fry-dye’ instead, where a re-dying service for old jeans will be provided free of charge.

Globally, one in three pieces of clothing each year goes straight to landfill without being sold, while YouGov data found 24% of Aussies threw out a garment after wearing it just once last year.

Csaki says the status quo just isn’t sustainable and discount-hungry retailers need to change tack to preserve the future of the industry.

“It’s absolutely criminal that you throw jeans away when there’s nothing wrong with them,” Csaki says.

Citizen Wolf isn’t the only business bucking the trend. Outdoorwear retailer Patagonia donates all its Black Friday profits to environmental groups, while co-op business REI boycotts the holiday altogether by closing its stores.

Has Black Friday been overhyped? 

About $320 million is tipped to be spent on Black Friday sales in Australia this year, about $120 million more than last year, according to Finder.com.au.

The comparison website surveyed 2,000 Australians, finding 20% plan to shop the sales, including deals at Myer, David Jones, Cotton On, The Good Guys and JB Hi-Fi.

But while there’s certainly growing interested in the holiday in Australia, the degree of hype for the typical Thanksgiving-focused shopping event may have been a little bit overdone.

That’s the view of University of Tasmania retail expert Louise Grimmer, who tells SmartCompany there are already signs discount fatigue is setting in before Christmas.

“[Black Friday] has been a little bit overblown,” she says.

“Retailers are wanting to build this up but for Australian shoppers, it’s not one of those traditions we’ve had … it’s not like a public holiday like it is in America.”

Grimmer says a growing emphasis on sales events in Australia in the lead up to Christmas is a double-edged sword for retailers which is making it harder to sell products at full price.

So-called discount fatigue has been an emerging talking point in the retail sector in recent years as broader market conditions have deteriorated, driving businesses such as Metalicus and Roger David into administration.

Earlier this year Craig King, chief executive of General Pants Co., which owned Metalicus prior to its collapse, said an excess of product in the Australian market was driving difficulties.

“Our biggest concern is that there’s already possible too much product in the marketplace,” King said in May.

“Retailers are challenged with managing their inventory effectively, and suppliers and brands need to check themselves as to their expectations with how much product can be pushed.”

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany.

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