Published 2018-01-04

This post is also available in Swedish

Black Friday —effective new consumption gimmick

The shopping phenomenon known as ‘Black Friday’ was recently highlighted by Swedish Radio P1’s environment programme Klotet. Two Mistra researchers participated in the discussion. One of their messages was that the Swedes have not paid for what their consumption costs others. Another is that the will to consume is deeply human.

Black Friday was originally an American shopping event that kicks off on the day after Thanksgiving Day, one of the country’s great public holidays, and is also considered a starting point for the whole Christmas trade.

In Sweden, however, it is a fairly new phenomenon. Nonetheless, and before the buying spree started, the Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel) estimated that half of Sweden’s consumers would buy something on this particular Friday in late November. The outcome was even more positive for the retailers, and the number of postal packages was 50 per cent higher than in the corresponding week in 2016.

Many consumers, of course, hope they can get some real bargains on the day, but the increasing consumption also has a clear downside. If everyone on Earth were to shop and live in the same way as people in Sweden, the World Wide Fund for Nature estimates, we would need access to another three planets.

A couple of days before the start of the Black Friday event, the phenomenon was highlighted in Swedish Radio’s environment programme Klotet (‘The Globe’). Karin Bradley, Programme Director of Mistra Sustainable Consumption, and Peter Repinski of the Stockholm Environment Institute were guests on the programme.

Together, they discussed the downside of this consumption. They were entirely in agreement that Swedes do not pay for the impact it has on the environment and people — costs that rarely arise where goods are bought, but rather where they are manufactured.

‘Producing a single pair of jeans uses up six cubic metres of water. That consumption isn’t included in the jeans we buy on Black Friday. Instead, the price is paid by the three billion people living in areas of water scarcity,’ said Peter Repinski.

They also agreed that the desire to consume is profoundly human. They compared it to being addicted to sugar: joy from the sweetness soon gives way to craving again.

The programme, in Swedish, is available here:

Per Westergård