2017 Holiday Shopping: Apparel And Footwear At A Crossroad

November each year marks the date of three major shopping holidays kicking off with Singles day on the 11th of November in China and followed up by Black Friday and Cyber Monday originating in the US but now extending around the world. The latter two have by now transformed into a near week long shopping holiday and coincides with Thanksgiving in the US. And while the shopping holidays marked by steep discounts might have had less impact on apparel and footwear than other consumer goods industries with comparatively higher unit prices like consumer electronics and appliances that by no means is preventing apparel and footwear companies from fully embracing the sales opportunity. Although it begs the question if the industry is neglecting the impact of a prolonged shopping holiday with deep discounts on consumer shopping behaviour ultimately risking undermining their own value growth. While some altogether reject the premise of the shopping holiday season.

Last year fast fashion giant Zara had a 30% near storewide discount both in stores and online while rival H&M released a special Black Friday collection with prices from USD4.99 coupled with 60% discounts on large selections and free shipping. Industrywide, among companies participating, the discounting typically extended to nearly half of their product ranges with discounts averaging roughly around 40% on both sides of the Atlantic. This has meant margins have been slashed to keep up with the competition in an industry were margins are already razor thin from the fierce competition. And with discounts now often extending days ahead of Black Friday and not ending until Cyber Monday the following week it begs the question if the industry is neglecting the impact the discounting season is having on consumer shopping behaviour. In the end, why would a consumer in October, or even as early as September, bother buying items at full price knowing full well that soon, in a months’ time, they will be available at a deep discount. Some companies like British fast fashion player Primark known for its rock-bottom prices have chosen to not take part in the discounting craze at home in the UK noting it does not rely on promotional activities such as the shopping holidays for sales but rather ever day low prices. And Primark isn’t the only company not taking part in the discounting hysteria.

The global buying frenzy inciting an apparel and footwear industry already under critique for its culture of overconsumptions have sparked something of an anti-consumerism stand from multiple companies. Patagonia which company ethos already takes a clear stance against the culture of overconsumption rejects the idea of deep discounts to fuel volume sales and decided to keep prices unchanged and pledge to donate all Black Friday sales in support of grassroots environmental organisation. In 2016, Patagonia donated no less than USD10 million from its Black Friday sales. Online retailer Everlane initially shut down its website on Black Friday in protest but have more recently pursued a strategy in similarity to Patagonia, like in 2016 by donating Black Friday profits to support its 8,000 factory workers in Vietnam. While US based outdoor and recreational retailer REI shut down all its 143 stores across the US on Black Friday in reaction to how the shopping holiday frenzy takes away from the actual Thanksgiving holiday itself.

Regardless of what stance apparel and footwear companies and retailers take, be it steep discounts in a bid to capture consumer’s attention or a stance against the culture of overconsumption, the November shopping holiday season is sure to be one most largest global shopping spectacles in the calendar year.