Black Friday 2019
Evolution to Revolution

Here’s our take on the most innovative brands making moves this Black Friday.

We look back at the origins of the famous discount day and consider how Black Friday has evolved beyond pure bargains to be a platform for brand purpose in 2019. The revolution lies in that now, nobody is abstaining.


Search ‘a history of Black Friday’ on Google and you’ll come across a colourful history. Initial uses of the term can be traced back to the 1869 Wall Street crash and the Philadelphia police department in the 1950s. Black Friday quickly came to represent a discount weekend that pushes profits back into black, a phenomenon that agitates the market and kick starts Christmas spending. Black Friday has evolved as brands are redefining it to fit their brand purpose, whatever that may be. Where once boycotting Black Friday meant taking a stand, now disruptive retailers are reinventing what it means to them and delivering different experiences. What’s revolutionary is that this year, nobody said no.


With visits to stores down 6.2 percent on Black Friday compared to last year (ShopperTrak, 2019), physical retail must do more than online. This year, Amazon returned to London with its experiential pop up store, the Home of Black Friday, offering book signings, cooking demonstrations, beauty sessions and more. Amazon’s balance of physical experiences linked with online fulfilment covers all bases for maximum brand engagement.

Amazon Home of Black Friday_2018

While visits to stores were down on last year, online spending was greater than ever this year reaching $7.4bn in the US, according to Adobe Analytics. Customers tend to put off spending until the discounts drop, meaning a total boycott of Black Friday risks being counterproductive.

What’s more, 65 percent of all 2019 Black Friday orders were placed on a mobile device (Salesforce, 2019). This offers a unique opportunity to DTC brands, particularly those which target social media for marketing. This has seen brands such as Glossier participating in highly-anticipated Black Friday discounts to avoid missing out overall.


To counteract rumours of Black Friday fatigue, brands are being more creative with their approaches. For example, Adidas brought back its coveted YEEZY BOOST 350 V3 “Pirate Black” and StockX offered a prize with every purchase.

Brands that don’t believe in Black Friday are instead hosting experiences that align with their sustainable values. Such retailers see this as an opportunity to cater to conscious consumers and promote their brand missions.

For one day only, the Allbirds store in Covent Garden removed all its stock and transformed into a creative workshop and events space. Each of the workshops centred around the sustainable materials the brand uses to make its products.

Everlane, another brand that ‘doesn’t believe in discounts’, is continuing its Black Friday Fund this year. It donated $10 from every purchase made on Black Friday to its selected charity Oceana following the brand’s pledge to remove all virgin plastic from its products by 2020.



As brand activism continues to grow, making a purchase means taking a stand. Some brands are going one step further and repurposing Black Friday to fit their brand values.

This year, Patagonia shifted the focus from product to purpose by matching all donations made to grassroots environmental organisations via Patagonia Actions Works, between Black Friday and December 31st. No purchase is required for the donation to be matched.

Patagonia Action Works

Mobile phone network provider Giffgaff hosted a pop up with Zero Waste Goods encouraging customers to make use of refurbished phones rather than buying new products. 100 lucky visitors were later named as winners of the recycled items displayed.

For the third year running, REI continued its #OptOutside Black Friday campaign, closing its doors and paying its employees to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. #OptOutside has grown into a movement involving partners that range from state national parks to small outerwear brands such as dryrobe that champion nature over consumerism.

Love it or hate it, businesses can no longer simply refuse to participate in Black Friday. The day’s shift from offline to online and the unexpected rise of click and collect (customers bought nearly 41 percent more online before going to pick up in store, according to Adobe Digital Insights) has evolved the day into a diverse ecosystem of alternative options. Black Friday remains a huge driver for sales, and the ways to shop and engage with brands seem infinite. Brands are finding their own way to do Black Friday that fits with them and their customers.

Meanwhile, purpose-driven brands are claiming Black Friday as a symbol for things that they and their customers believe in and care about, whether that’s bagging a bargain or saving the world, or a bit of both. Black Friday is still about moving from red to black, only now the focus is shifting from hard profit to building emotional equity with customers. The range and variety of participation by both brands and customers this year is nothing less than revolutionary.

Black Friday is here to stay because now it represents more than just sales, even though the tills did a record ring in 2019. Long live the revolution, we’re already looking forward to seeing what retail disruption and range of experiences Black Friday 2020 brings.



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