Black Friday bests: Three brands that put purpose in their profits

11.19.2018
Women shopping

Since 1952, the day after Thanksgiving has been synonymous with the start of the holiday shopping season, earning the moniker “Black Friday” in the early 2000s and initiating a trend for stores to operate “in the black.” While many retailers roll out deep discounts to incentivize customers to score the season’s best deals on the heels of Thanksgiving, some brands have extended the event to Thanksgiving Day or even earlier, creating “Black Thursday” and “Black Friday Eve” specials that generate mass appeal.

Continued pressure from online competitors and the desire to connect with customers’ values have inspired purpose-driven organizations to convert sales opportunities into equally-valuable goodwill. Why? Because investing in people and the planet can create a seriously profitable impact.

Here’s how three retailers have managed to do so successfully:

REI opts outside

In 2015, REI closed its stores on Black Friday and launched its #optoutside initiative – a movement that pays employees and encourages customers to trade indoor retail and screen time for outdoor activities. With online resources that help customers find nearby parks and blog posts that tout the benefits of time spent in nature, the company embodies its belief that “a life outdoors is a life well lived.” Best of all, within its first year of flipping Black Friday on its head, REI saw a 6% increase in sales despite its closed doors on the ever-popular retail holiday.

ModCloth breaks it off

Vintage inspired retailer, ModCloth announced its break up with Black Friday in 2017 during which it shut down its site completely and granted all employees the day off. Instead, the company donated $5 million worth of merchandise to Dress for Success: a “not-for-profit organization that helps women transition back into the workforce.” Beyond living its mission of female empowerment and inclusivity, ModCloth took its philanthropic move one step further. To support its #BlackFridayBreakup, the company inspired followers to nominate a philanthropic member of their community for a chance to win $4,500 to support their nominee’s cause or project. With over 52,000 tweets and 135,000 followers who participated in the Dress for Success charity promotion on social media, ModCloth’s retail remix advance consumers’ attention for good.

Patagonia goes dark

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia wasn’t ready to give up Black Friday completely, so it turned the entirety of its $10 million Black Friday sales in 2016 into donations for environmental organizations. The company’s record-breaking global retail and online sales brought traction to their #LoveOurPlanet movement, making a direct impact on grassroots organizations that work in local communities to “protect our air, water and soil for future generations.”

From inviting consumers to engage in causes they care about to encouraging employees to live the values brands preach – selling purpose on Black Friday may be the ultimate holiday win.

 

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