IYKYK, Sustainable Black Friday aka Green Friday Deals
Recently, there has been a push for conscious consumers and brands to participate in something called Green Friday. Which, I like to think of as the less capitalist more environmentally friendly sister to Black Friday.
Like many of my articles, this week's post was prompted by my real-world observations. What inspired me to write an article about the Friday after Thanksgiving, one of the most infamous shopping days not just in the United States, but the entire planet was some really bad advice I've been seeing some conscious fashion "gurus" give.
PS - conscious shopper this is for you too. You might not realize this, but the holidays are often one of the worst times to go shopping. Even when you think you are getting a great deal. Don't worry, I'll explain why in a little bit.
But, before we get started
Have you heard about the super secret document that everyone in the fashion industry uses, but no one is talking about? Probably not. That is because you can't find it on Google or Instagram (believe me, I've tried).
It's a form I have used for over 13 years at every job I have ever had. Literally everyone from brands to fabric suppliers use it, but you can't find it anywhere publicly.
The best part? It can cut your sourcing time in half, and save you tons of money in product development! This is the kind of info consultants charge the big bucks for. And, I'm giving it away for free until the end of the month.
So, get ready to make fashion startup life a whole lot easier, and GRAB YOUR FREE DOWNLOAD OF THE NOT-SO-SECRET SOURCING DOC HERE
First, What Exactly Is Green Friday?
Green Friday, also known as the anti-Black Friday movement, was born out with the goal of raising awareness about the impacts of our shopping habits. Especially around the holidays. No one really knows who started this alternative shopping day. But, it is believed it could be an offshoot of Buy Nothing Day. Which began in Canada in the early '90s.
Because the Green Friday movement is a pretty loose and decentralized concept, everyone has their own take on how to participate. But, the one thing everyone agrees on, is that the purpose of the day is to reflect on what and why you are buying. And, to try and make better purchasing decisions that support small brands and good causes instead of large corporations. In recent years, this alternative shopping holiday is gaining more and more popularity with the topic of climate change being at the forefront of many shoppers' minds.
The Worst Q4 Advice I Ever Heard? Don't Discount Your Products
IMO. The people giving this advice almost never have had their own brand. So, their strategies tend to be more apple pie in the sky, than based on real-world data and application. Generally, I find that the people giving out the advice to never discount during Green Friday or Black Friday are part of the fake it till you make it crowd. AKA will tell brands anything they want to hear in order to get them to sign up for their services.
So, let's talk about why this advice is so bad.
Yes, I know. Small brands, you want to believe so badly that with some magical secrets you can sell your products exclusively at full price. But for the success of your business, I really need you to hear me out.
The first thing we need to do is look at shopper psychology.
Getting a deal is no longer considered "budget" like it was back in the late 90s and early aughts. Today, getting the best deal for something is savvy. It shows you are an educated shopper.
Just take a look at the website Wirecutter, run by The New York Times. It is basically the bible for learning how to get the most bang for your buck when purchasing anything and everything from a toaster for your kitchen, to the best winter jacket for your pooch.
We Have All Been Conditioned To Believe Getting A Good Deal Shows How Smart We Are
So, the first step here in your Green Friday holiday retail recovery plan is to come to grips with the fact that consumers don't just want, but expect deals.
Again for the people in the back. At this point in time, no one pays full price anymore. Entire businesses are built around helping customers get the best deals ever. From companies like Misfits Market, which sells not so perfect, but still nutritional and delicious produce for cheap, to Scott's Cheap Flights, where you can find some of the best travel tips around - there are more and more services that are helping people save money while still maintaining a certain level of quality.
And, Getting a Sale Isn't Only Savvy, It's Fun - So Fun It Can Be Addictive
Don't believe me? Check out this article in Elle about the science of shopping.
"As usual, the brain chemical to credit or blame for our pleasure—in this case, the pleasure of shopping—is dopamine. The neurotransmitter surges when you're considering buying something new—anticipating a reward, in other words. Sales, by the way, give us an even harder kick."
Lastly, I Want You To Consider The Current Economic Climate
With inflation rising by the day. Consumers are becoming more and more frugal with where they are spending. If there is a choice between your product, and another brand making something kinda similar, but for a cheaper price or having a limited-time sale, they will almost always choose the other brand that is discounted.
Even Luxury Brands Go On Sale These Days
Now whenever I hear one of these consultants say, never put your goods on sale, the next thing out of their mouths is almost always this… "brands like Chanel and Gucci never put their items on sale, and that is why they are able to command such high prices and have a luxury and high-end reputation."
Very, very wrong.
While you won't see Chanel or Gucci or almost any other luxury brand on sale in a department store. These brands do offer their goods at a discount in a few ways.
The first is private sample sales. Exclusive shopping events for VIP shoppers. Where customers who spend big bucks year-round can be rewarded for their loyalty.
The second is outlet stores. Tucked away in the far corners of middle America, yes, you can get deeply discounted designer goods that you would never see in a department store.
So, to say you shouldn't discount your product because luxury brands don't do it, is not accurate. They just do it in an exclusive or geographically inconvenient way.
The other thing is. And, I know this is going to anger some of you, but hey, it needs to be said… reality check, you aren't Chanel, you aren't Versace, you aren't a legacy brand, you are not a household name. You are most likely a small brand, that not too many people know about, or for that matter trust.
These luxury houses were not built overnight. They took decades of strategic marketing, elite brand partnerships, and often years in the red losing money to establish.
You can't compare yourself and your brand to them. Doing this is business suicide.
'But, Sales Will Dilute My Brand Value'
Wrong again. Seriously, stop listening to these internet quacks. I just told you even luxury brands do it.
But, if you are running new special promos and sales every day, then yes, you will train your customers to only shop during sale times. And, by the way, this can be an incredibly successful business strategy, if done correctly, (which I will talk about in just one minute).
But, if you have 1 or 2 very carefully planned and thoughtfully executed sales campaigns per year - your customers won't see it as a cheap marketing tactic, but more as customer appreciation. And, kind of like you are doing them a favor.
Basically, you are saying to them, hey, thanks for supporting my brand, and as a thank you, here are a couple of dollars off for a very limited time only. Act now, or lose the discount forever.
The trick here is to limit those sales times and really stick to them. If every month you are like, guess what, I have this super exclusive discount, well no one is going to think it exclusive anymore.
The Discount-All-The-Time Sales Strategy That Actually Works
Now, some brands actually want to run sales all year round. Because they want to be constantly tapping into that feel-good dopamine and creating a sales rush for their customers.
But, what you need to understand about these brands that are basically always on sale, is that they plan for the sales in their margins.
If a $100 shirt goes on sale for 50% off, this is planned for. So when the company is calculating their prices and margins they will use $50 as the retail price of the shirt, not $100. This is because they know they are never actually going to sell the shirt for $100. They are just letting their customer believe they sold it at one point for $100 and now they are getting a deal at $50.
Tricky, and kind of unethical, right? But, this is the reality of how the business of fashion works.
So, How Can A Conscious Brand Compete In A System That Has Been Trained Shoppers To Hunt For Deals
Yes. But the first thing you need to remember is that all sales are planned for, and should always be pre-built into your margins. Sales are a strategy, not a Hail Mary for a slow season.
Conscious Shoppers, This Part It For You Too
Remember at the start of this post when I told you I would explain why the holidays is the worst time to shop - even if you think you are getting a deal? It's time to talk about that now.
For small business owners and fashion startups, this industry insider information is also going to nail in the importance of using sales as a strategy, not an emergency reaction.
The key here is to understand how brands traditionally plan their Q4 price strategies.
The secret is, big brands aren't playing the game fair - Black Friday isn't always a good deal. While conscious brands are being encouraged not to discount, they are simultaneously competing with an extremely sophisticated and manipulated sales strategy implemented by the rest of the industry.
Not discounting is like showing up to a game of basketball with Michale Jordan in high heels. You are already at a disadvantage and are just hurting yourself even more by your own bad decisions.
What You Need To Know About Black Friday "Deals"
If you pay careful attention to retailers (especially online retailers) you will see that prices start to creep up in October, and peak around the second week of December.
Most consumers don't realize what is happening because over the course of months brands are only adding a few cents a day. But, those few cents can take a product that would normally sell at any other time of year for around $22, all the way up to $35 during the holidays.
Then when they hit you with their 25% off holiday discount that makes you think you are getting a great deal, you are actually paying more money than you would for the non-discounted deal.
Here's the math, 25% of $35 is an $8.75 discount, which means you are paying $26.26 instead of $22. And the crazy part is, you leave thinking you were the one who got the deal.
Retailers are able to get away with this because most customers are not tracking prices day today, and do not notice the slow price increases during the pre-holiday season.
So, that is one of the ways big retailers are able to give deep discounts, without necessarily affecting their bottom line.
With All Of These Black Friday Tricks And Games You Might Be Feeling Lost About Green Friday
But, don't worry. I have some real strategies for you to crush it.
Tell Your Story Better
Recently I found some old screenshots of the virtue + vice website when it went live all those years ago. And, boy is it embarrassing.
At the time I was so proud of the website. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would build my own site, and the fact that I did, wow was I beyond proud. But, while it was amazing for my personal skill set, it didn't look that great to everyone else. Thankfully I had some brutally honest friends who set me straight, and encouraged me to keep working and keep upgrading the site to what it is today!
But, what really stands out on that old website is the copy. It literally sounded like a robot chain-smoking its way through business school wrote it.
It took me years to find my voice.
At first, I was afraid (I was petrified... seriously). What if people didn't like the real me? What if my 'this is how it is' personality was too much for people? But, what I realized was the more I started to show who I was behind the screen, the more my business grew.
And in the right ways - because all of my clients and students are awesome.
And, that's because they are able to relate to what and how I am saying.
Now, I am a terrible writer (thank goodness for Grammarly). So, don't expect any copywriting posts from me, that is not a skill I can teach.
What I can do is point you to some experts. Marie Forleo runs a course called the Copy Cure, I have not taken the paid course, but I did take her week-long freebie course, and wow, was it good! At the very least, sign up for that.
Also, I have a writing coach. Marissa LaRocca. Marissa is amazing and has very reasonable rates. I highly recommend Marissa to anyone looking to bump up their writing skills to the next level (or even just for a little writing encouragement).
Remember, when you learn to communicate clearly, and in a way that resonates with your customers, your business, and sales, will grow exponentially. This is a fact.
Talk To Your Customers, And Listen To Them
Are you pricing them out? You might have a huge loyal following of people that love what you do. But, they might not be able to buy from you simply because they can't afford it.
That once-a-year Green Friday sale (the one that you might have been so worried would dilute your brand value). It might be the shopping event they look forward to all year so they can finally buy a piece from your collection.
The only way to find out if this is the case is to reach out and start chatting with your social media following and email list. Seriously, Just ask them!
If you do find out that your price point is a bit too high, it might be time to work your numbers and try a redesign.
Can you offer a similar product and a lower price point? Maybe it doesn't have to have all the bells and whistles, but it's still a thoughtful product that your audience will love, and will be able to afford.
One of the easiest ways to create lower-priced purchase items is by making something called a transaction builder. If you want to learn more, I get more into how to create a transaction builder to boost sales, here.
If You Are A Shopper That Wants To Support Small Brands on Green Friday
Please remember. Yea, you could get a similar dress from Target for much less. But, the reason small brands' prices are so much higher is that their costs are so much higher. Target is buying their fabric for under a dollar a meter, and some small brands spend $20 or even more per meter on the perfect textiles that are adding value to the lives of all the people throughout their entire supply chain.
Unfortunately, supporting a small conscious business does come with a cost.
But, I promise you this. When you buy from a small brand, almost every order they an email alert for is a small celebration. When you buy from big brands, no one there cares about your purchase - you are just an invoice number.
Got Questions About Price Strategy, Sales, or Green Friday Shopping?
Let me hear them in the comments!