As Christmas creeps ever closer, the next date in the unstoppable retail calendar is Black Friday on 27th November. It’s the day following Thanksgiving Day in the US and since the early 2000s has been seen as the start of the Christmas shopping season on the other side of the pond.

In recent years UK retailers have really got in on the act and it’s predicted that this year UK retailers will bring in £1.6bn of sales on this day alone, up 20% on last year.

However, not everybody is playing ball. Supermarket giant Asda has already said it won’t participate this year, surprising as the Walmart-owned supermarket is one of the retailers instrumental in introducing the tradition to the UK. They say customers are sick of being 'held hostage' to quick sales on pricey, non-essential items such as televisions. Instead they’ve committed to discounting toys and gifts, food, drink and household items over several weeks in the run-up to Christmas. 

A similar approach has been taken by Argos, who introduced three discount weekends in the weeks leading up to Black Friday in an attempt to spread demand over a longer period - although the promotion was hit by technical issues.

On Black Friday last year police were called out across the country to deal with issues ranging from crowd control, assaults, to threatening customers. Tesco’s CEO Dave Lewis has said of last year:

"Everyone would agree there is a need to take the frenzy out of it. We put our colleagues in a difficult position last year.”

Many of the retailers leading the Black Friday madness have prominent corporate social responsibility strategies which they shout loudly about. But is this really what a responsible retail environment looks like? One look at the footage from last year’s Black Friday begs the question of whether any retailer promoting this consumerist orgy can have any genuine claim to being responsible or sustainable.

Do we want our kids to grow up thinking this is what Christmas is about? Whether Christian or not, surely Christmas should be a time to spend time with friends and family, exchange thoughtful gifts, enjoy food and (probably too much) drink. The idea that we should start the Christmas season with this kind of consumer binge sets completely the wrong tone for the following month. 

However, I believe the retailers have misunderstood the consumer on this one, and that an increasing number of people find it undignified and nauseating. There is already objection to the way that Christmas is dragged earlier and earlier each year by retailers, and this is another reason for people to resent and mistrust the companies who sell to them. 

It leaves a bad taste in the collective mouth of consumers, and the sooner companies who should know better stop pushing it on us, the quieter the accusations of hypocrisy and 'greenwash' will become.

What do you think, can a retailer take part in Black Friday and still have a genuine claim to be ‘responsible’? Join the conversation at the Fashion Future Network.

Photography by Ahoova