Consumers came out in full force this past Black Friday, setting new records for consumption at corporate storefronts and online retailers. Everybody loves a bargain, but at what cost?
According to the National Retail Federation, a whopping eighty percent of the entire national population – 247 million shoppers – frequented retail locations and websites over the Black Friday weekend, considerably higher than last year’s tally of 226 million shoppers. The study, released last Sunday, polled 4,000 consumers but does not account for transactions from Cyber Monday. The average shopper spent $423 dollars this year compared to just under $400 dollars last year.
Consumption trends indicate a shift from physical to virtual shopping as a record 89 million shoppers bypassed the long lines at corporate retailers — opting to shop from the comfort of their homes. Online commerce exploded to over $1 billion dollars on Black Friday, up by 26% from last year.
While these numbers may bode well for our consumer-driven economy, they have a severe impact on labor and the environment. The untold costs of Black Friday include the poor working conditions of US workers and their separation from their families during holiday working hours, as well as the exploitative labor standards in sweatshops in developing nations where products are made. True costs of holiday bargains also include the environmental fallout from the mass consumption and waste of largely non-biodegradable materials.
Growing numbers of Americans disillusioned with the corporate shopping options are seeking alternative avenues to spending their hard earned dollars. Locally owned shops competed with corporate retailers and earned $5.5 billion in an effort called Small Business Saturday. Some are rejecting even that model of consumption, opting instead for local artists’ fare, recycled one-of-a-kind crafts, and certified fair-trade products from around the world.
GUESTS: Cathy Deppe, California lead organizer of 9to5 National Association of Working Women, Laura Palomares is the lead producer and co-founder of El Puente
7th Annual Fair Trade and Conscious Gifts Holiday Bazaar takes place on Saturday December 1st from 10 am to 3 pm at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, 3300 Wilshire Blvd LA, CA. Visit www.9to5california.org.
The 11th Annual Antimall takes place on Sunday December 16th from 11 am to 5 pm at the Vex Arts and Cultural Center, 5240 Alhambra Avenue, Los Angeles CA. Visit www.theantimall.weebly.com.