Patagonia Tells Customers Not to Shop on Black Friday. Wait, What?

Patagonia is asking customers NOT to shop on Black FridayThis year, Black Friday has evolved into Black Thursday, with big retailers like Walmart, Target, Macy's, Kohl's, and J.C. Penney opening their doors to rabid shoppers on Thanksgiving day. According to the National Retail Federation, 140 million people will be shopping over the holiday weekend. While most businesses are busy drumming up  techniques to lure shoppers and get them to spend more money, Patagonia has taken a vastly different approach.

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The outdoor apparel company has launched an anti-Black Friday campaign, urging customers not to buy new items and, instead, to repair their old Patagonia gear instead. The retailer launched a partnership with iFixit to provide repair guides for every type of Patagonia gear, from jackets to clothing to luggage. This initiative is also coming to life in 15 of its retail locations in cities around the country. Starting at 4 p.m. on Black Friday customers can bring old, beat-up Patagonia gear to one of those 15 stores to not only get their stuff repaired for free by professionals, but also to enjoy food, beer, and live music, and watch screenings of the company's new "Worn Wear" short film, which follows a champion skier, surfer, and other outdoor enthusiasts in their well-loved Patagonia gear.

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"This Black Friday, when deals and discounts entice people to buy more than they need, Patagonia would like to send an alternative message to its friends, family and customers, one that explores the quality of the things we own and the lives we live," the brand wrote in a statement posted on its website and sent out in a press release. Patagonia is already spreading its message on social media with hashtags #AntiBlackFriday and #BetterThanNew.

"There's more to life than shopping," Joy Howard, Patagonia's vice president of global marketing, tells Yahoo Shine exclusively. "Instead we're celebrating the clothes people have already bought and the amazing things that they've done in them. Stories like the ones we feature in 'Worn Wear' inspire us every day and we're sharing them in the hopes that they inspire you, too."

A retailer who encourages its customers to stop shopping? Skeptics could see it as a marketing ploy or some kind of reverse psychology. One might argue that a brand that is truly against the concept of Black Friday should simply stay closed that day and encourage people to avoid stores altogether. Or that if Patagonia really were concerned about its environmental impact, then perhaps it should stop manufacturing products overseas to reduce its carbon footprint. (The company is transparent about the fact that, in addition to its factories in the United States, it also uses dozens outside the country, including many in China.) But Patagonia insists its focus is to produce high-quality, long-lasting items and educate its shoppers.

"Patagonia is not a typical retailer," Howard insists. "We're a certified B Corporation, which means we exist to solve social and environmental problems. We want people not only to buy our product — which we build to be the best without causing unnecessary harm. We want them to join us in achieving our mission of inspiring and implementing solutions to the environmental crisis."

A Patagonia Cyber Monday ad from 2011This is not the first time the eco-friendly brand has taken a stand against excess consumerism. In 2005, founder Yvon Chouinard started the Common Threads Initiative, which pledges to "build useful things that last, to repair what breaks, and recycle what comes to the end of its useful life." Patagonia also asks that its customers "agree to buy only what I need (and will last), repair what breaks, reuse (share) what I no longer need and recycle everything else." And in 2011 the company also published a controversial, full-page ad in the New York Times on Black Friday with the tagline: "Do Not Buy This Jacket." Other copy included, "Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time –– and leave a world inhabitable for our kids –– we want to do the opposite of every other business today. We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else."

An #AntiBlackFriday business strategy seems counterintuitive, but it has apparently worked before. Last year Chouinard told the Wall Street Journal that while Patagonia's controversial Black Friday ad in 2011 didn't necessarily drive sales, according to the Wall Street Journal story, it helped the company poach customers from competitors.

Readers, what do you think of Patagonia's anti-Black Friday campaign: marketing ploy or refreshing time-out from holiday consumerism?

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