Black Friday’s Shifting Tides

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Black Friday, once a distant affair reserved for the West, has now firmly stamped its mark on India’s shopping calendar. Yay! Yet another occasion for brands to send us discount emails. Yet another day where consumers have to summon their willpower to resist the siren call of impulse buys and avoid turning into a hoarder of all things discounted. It’s a dance between desire and discipline, all wrapped up in the Black Friday frenzy. For consumers, it’s like stepping into a retail battleground, armed with wish lists and a knack for scoring the best deals.

Once upon a time, Black Friday was the wild west of discounts—a no-holds-barred frenzy where manufacturers and retailers danced dangerously close to the edge of profit margins, all for the sake of a sweet deal. But as Black Friday grew in terms of sales volume and value, it was quickly realized that the old playbook needed a refresh. Now, instead of drowning in a sea of slashed prices, consumers find a curated collection of tempting offers. It’s all about playing the game of trade up – nudging consumers to snag that shinier, fancier model they didn’t even know they needed.

But as the Gen-Z and young Millennials are getting more educated about the impact of fashion on the environment, they’re embracing sustainability like never before. As a result, Black Friday is undergoing a makeover, transforming from a shopping fever into a quest for mindful consumption.

Brands are creatively reimagining Black Friday, embracing innovative approaches that resonate with an audience increasingly drawn to ethical consumption.

Sustainability is The New Black

The younger generation is increasingly conscious of fashion’s impact, particularly the environmental toll of fast fashion. Black Friday exacerbates this issue, enticing individuals to splurge on juicy deals.

Elevated consumer spending translates to heightened manufacturing and shipping, amplifying both the carbon footprint and emissions, compounding environmental challenges1. The savings of Black Friday discounts is paid for in environmental damage. Moreover, the mounds of profit earned by these companies rarely reflect on the minimum wage and working conditions of their employees.

Black Friday also plays on the idea that in this capitalist world2, one’s value is based on what one owns. It’s a magnetic pull towards the shiny new toys and the trendiest threads, enticing consumers to believe that their value in this world somehow hangs in the balance of the commodities they possess. The buzz of Black Friday taps into that desire for status, convincing buyers that owning the “it” item of the season is the key to their place in the cosmic pecking order of coolness.

Beyond the Bargain

Ever since its inception in the 60s3, Black Friday has been a prominent retail event in the golden quarter every year. Large brands and corporations thrive off of the frenzy of traffic at their product aisles. With the change in wind, however, the promotions of Black Friday have elevated from being a mere sale to a full-fledged campaign. Every year, the conglomerates try to one-up each other with marketing tactics that attract consumers like moths to a light.

Amidst the wasteland/ landfill of those elaborate marketing campaigns, few brands have tried to trail into a more conscious path for their Black Friday promotions. Minting efforts in place of extravagant offers are steadily picking up speed and the younger generation is here for it. From closing shop for the Black Friday weekend to supporting small businesses in the vicinity, big brands are finally employing the impact of their names for good. Many even resolved to remind their customers to assess the practicality of their impulse purchases.

Brands are embracing innovative campaigns, such as ‘Green Friday’4, championing responsible and sustainable shopping. This movement encourages supporting local stores and second-hand shops, buying more artisanal products and fostering a more eco-conscious shopping experience. Giving Tuesday is another global initiative that encourages people to donate to charitable causes on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving5. Second-hand luxury goods platform Vestiaire Collective introduced Black Better Friday last year6, a concept that encourages shoppers to choose pre-loved items instead of fast fashion on Black Friday. These initiatives mark a promising shift toward conscious consumerism. As brands innovate and shoppers embrace sustainable alternatives, each choice becomes a step toward a more conscious shopping culture.

Balancing Act

Despite the impact of all these festive sales, advocating for a complete ban on Black Friday is an extreme move since a lot of middle and lower-income families depend on it to be able to buy expensive essentials like electronics and home goods. In Western countries particularly, this annual sale weekend is the lifeline that makes gifting possible without breaking the bank. Striking a balance between acknowledging the significance of slashed price tags while advocating for a more sustainable approach is tricky but also the need of the hour.

Choosing sustainable brands over fast fashion is a commendable choice when feasible. Yet, it’s crucial not to condemn those unable to make this shift especially since slow fashion brands are known to be expensive. Many depend on affordable options, especially in marginalized communities. We believe in mindful consumption whenever possible, reflecting on purchases and their environmental impact, rather than condemning or boycotting particular choices.

Shades of Black Friday in the Era of Modern Consumerism

Contrary to its monumental status in many Western countries, Black Friday hasn’t traditionally been India’s hallmark sales event due to its detachment from cultural or religious ties. In India, it arrives post-Diwali when the fervour of festive shopping is already winding down, unlike abroad where it follows Thanksgiving and precedes Christmas. Despite this disparity, Black Friday has exhibited remarkable growth in recent years within India’s consumer landscape. Particularly in categories like fashion and home goods, Black Friday has seen notable growth. Retail giants have recognised the potential of its economic impact and promptly internalised Black Friday as a quintessential sale event across channels including physical and e-commerce platforms. Even the marketing strategies are perfected to the boot to appeal to a melange of audience demographics irrespective of the tax bracket they fall into. This resilience showcases its burgeoning presence within the Indian market, continually evolving in its shades to accommodate changing consumer values and preferences.


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Vestiaire Collective (@vestiaireco) | Instagram Profile. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.


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