Black Friday has arrived in the UK, bringing scenes of near-riot as ardent consumers flood into supermarkets in furious mobs, knocking each other to the floor in the dash for a ‘bargain’. Black Friday is a marketing construct: shops in the US offer big discounts on the day after Thanksgiving. This lends a tint of irony to the shocking behaviour of many Black Friday shoppers: give thanks one day; trample on your fellow shoppers the next. We live in interesting times.
You don’t get any of that nonsense with independent shops: the prices are transparent and there’s zero chance of being caught up in a stampede in Mrs M Vintage. There’s a cosy, laid-back feel to Christmas shopping in Urmston that cannot be replicated in the big behemoth malls, such as the Arndale and the Trafford Centre. Nor will you find yourself gridlocked in traffic or squashed like a sardine on a tram, bus or tram.
Black Friday coincided this year with ‘Buy Nothing Day’. Started by Adbusters back in the nineties, Buy Nothing Day challenges consumers to ‘switch off from shopping for a day’. Visiting the campaign’s website, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the campaign is explicitly supportive of independent shops and businesses, because, as it says, “local shops act as a community hub and must be preserved because for every £1 spent in an independent shop – fifty pence goes back into the local economy. For every £1 spent at a supermarket only five pence goes back into the local community.”
Most of us can’t or won’t ‘buy nothing’, however a quiet majority is growing ever more disengaged with the voracious pit of consumerism our festive season has become. It seems that there is almost no time for actual celebration because the choosing, buying, wrapping and distributing of gifts has taken over the whole season. Gifts for our family, our friends, our neighbours, our childrens’ teachers, our colleagues, our acquaintances, our local lolly pop ladies and our car valeters. There’s barely time to go to work in the month of December and no time at all for the quiet reflection and slowing down that nature calls for in the darkest season.
Times are hard, economically, and some claim that Black Friday represents an opportunity for the cash-strapped to obtain much-needed material goods. This argument would hold more water if all the goods that were being fought over were not things that nobody needs (huge tellies, iPads, that sort of thing). In any case, if you’re genuinely cash-strapped, a £189 television does not represent a good use of your money. Black Friday enables big retailers to whip up a frenzy among consumers which, they hope, won’t die down until Christmas Eve. Whether the bargains are genuine is questionable: the Guardian recently reported that many retailers put Christmas goods on the shelves at ‘full price’ in August (when no one will buy them) in order to reduce the price and promote them as bargains closer to Christmas.
Shopping locally with independent retailers automatically makes you part of a community’s beating heart; an economic champion of this little town. It keeps more money in the local economy and thriving independent shops help keep house prices buoyant. Take a look at our A-Z of Independent Businesses in Urmston (and please let me know if you would like me to list your business).
Some links to previous posts about Christmas gift shopping in Urmston: