Why some brands chose to “go dark” on Black Friday

Black Friday is one of the most important retailing days of the year.  However, several brands chose to opt out of the retail frenzy and instead leverage it as a branding opportunity.

For example, formerly* indie fashion brand ModCloth shuttered its site on Black Friday, declaring it would instead donate some $5M in merchandise to Dress for Success, an organization providing professional attire to women entering the workforce.

In a blog, ModCloth explained its decision as “It’s been fun, Black Friday. You had the deals and the steals, but this year we’re looking for the feels.”

But ModCloth wasn’t alone in going dark on Black Friday.  REI also closed its stores, encouraging its shoppers to get outside. Last year, Patagonia donated its Black Friday revenues to grassroots environmental organizations.

Winning… by not playing?

Opting out of a retail feeding frenzy may make sense for some…

First, competing head-on at the time when competition is most fierce, discount deepest and margins slimmest, may not be the wisest revenue strategy.  If you’re a niche store whose offerings aren’t equally purchasable from other retailers, there’s no reason to discount at all, unless you believe it will increase your customers’ overall annual purchases.

Second, each annual Black Friday is becoming an arms race of retailers announcing their bargains earlier and earlier.  While Black Friday’s register receipts are yet to be tallied, it’s possible a significant share of the Black Friday spending pie was consumed well before the actual day.

* Footnote: ModCloth’s move is all the more interesting in the context of its recent brand challenges.  Walmart acquired the company in March, leading longtime fans to express concern that it had “sold out” against its core values.  Those currently sanctioning Walmart over alleged unequal pay for females, and denial of parental leave, are boycotting ModCloth, too.



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