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Brief Published: 25 Nov 2016

Thanksgiving & Black Friday: Rebooting Holiday Narratives

Patagonia Black Friday

With waning enthusiasm for Black Friday’s in-store mayhem (around 75% of UK and US shoppers plan to buy online – Deloitte & PWC, 2016), and 61% of leading UK retailers calling the event both unprofitable and unsustainable (LCP Consulting, 2016), the stage is set for a shift in its narrative.

As broached in Renegade Retail, smart companies are taking the opportunity to rebrand Thanksgiving, too, making it more relevant for audiences disenfranchised by a traditional family focus.

We select the best unorthodox Black Friday and Thanksgiving retail concepts of 2016.

  • Counterintuitive Anti-Commerce: Echoing REI’s Anti-Black Friday Campaign last year, British outdoor apparel and equipment manufacturer Berghaus is encouraging consumers to get outside with a treasure hunt. Clues for The Get Out Game were being posted on its website from November 21-25. On Black Friday (November 25), it will release a final clue revealing the location of a flag at four locations across the UK. The first few customers to find a flag will receive prizes such as an Extreme Micro Down jacket (worth £190), with 1,000 additional prizes up for grabs. 
  • Discount Alternative for Deeper Engagement: New York-based luxury e-marketplace Orchard Mile is dropping traditional Black Friday discounting at its SoHo pop-up store. Instead, it’s offering visitors the chance to win the shop’s entire inventory. The aim of the revised tactic is to make for bigger talking points, triggering more long-lasting engagement than quick-fire savings.
  • Civilised Counterpoint: Offering more of a counterpoint to Black Friday than a stand against it, bookshops across the UK are hosting relaxed shopping experiences featuring book signings and tea pop-ups on what’s being dubbed Civilised Saturday on 26 November. 
  • Closed to Celebrate ‘Intentional Buying’: American transparency-oriented accessories brand Oliver Cabell (which reveals all costs along its supply chain) is closing its online shop for the entire Thanksgiving weekend. Instead, it has sent out a note to customers stating that it’s celebrating “intentional buying”, taking a stand against excessive consumption. The brand joins Everlane, which not only shut down on Black Friday, but also donated to its partner factories; and REI, which closed all its shops including the e-commerce arm.
  • Hijacking the Holiday to Raise Awareness: Playing on its philanthropic unique selling point, US outdoor clothing company Patagonia is hosting a thrift shop pop-up in London, offering repair services for clothing from all brands, and donating 100% of its Black Friday sales to environmental organisations. E-tail giant Net-a-Porter is following suit by donating 15% of its full-price sales to the White Ribbon Alliance – a US-based women’s rights organisation – reflecting concerns about the impact the new presidential administration may have on some social services. See also Brands Take a Stand and Patagonia’s Repair Tours.
Patagonia Repair Station
  • ‘Friendsgiving’ – Modernising the Holidays: Ikea has partnered with Uber to deliver 200 free Friendsgiving meal-planning kits for six in New York, highlighting the concept of Friendsgiving (a holiday dinner among friends, as opposed to the traditional family unit). The initiative is supported by research showing 26% of 13- to 33-year-olds planned to attend or host one in 2016 (YPulse, 2016). The kit included Ikea dining essentials, holiday ingredients, custom recipes and decorations. Those interested signed up with a promo code via the Uber app on Saturday November 19. See also Ikea DIY Restaurant and Rent the Apartment.
  • Non-Traditional Holiday Edit: Playing to the same theme, US lifestyle brand Urban Outfitters is hosting a curated ‘Friendsgiving’ edit on a dedicated section on its website. It showcases 44 products intended for gifting to friends or being used to host a dinner, ranging from home accessories to dining ware and electronics.