the main drawbacks of this shopping bonanza

Black Friday is right around the corner. It’s one of the biggest shopping events of the year, although there are mixed signals about how successful it will be in 2021. A recent study found that only a third of consumers plan to participate. The financial pressures of COVID-19 are still evident, and inflation is running at the highest level in ten years.

All the same, consumer confidence increased. According to Global data, buyers are ready to spend almost £9.2 billion in the four days from Black Friday to Cyber ​​Monday. This would still be a big increase from the £8 billion spent in 2020, and also the £8.6 billion in 2019.

Whether or not Black Friday lives up to retailers’ expectations, it comes with one big problem: a large part of the shopping will take place online. Black Friday orders online shot up during the COVID lockdowns of 2020, and are expected to rise sharply again this year – GlobalData Forecasts this will account for nearly two-thirds of all sales, compared to just 44% in 2019. This shift is bad news for the environment – ​​and it will exacerbate the problems the supply chain has been experiencing in recent months.

How we are deceived

Black Friday has begun in the mid sixties as a post-Thanksgiving sale in the US. Since then, it has become popular all over the world. But the idea that it’s one big day of discounts is misleading for several reasons.

The authenticity of deals is often questionable. And this year, reduced inventory, long shipping delays and labor shortages are likely to mean even fewer stores will offer deep discounts than normal. AN That? study has found that the vast majority of deals were cheaper or at the same price at other times of the year.

Many stores also extend the sales event from a single day to a longer period – often trying to entice consumers through much of November. This can dilute the event in the minds of the consumer, although it does make it easier for the business to meet demand. This should at least help retailers in a year with so many supply chain issues. In the best pandemic language, this is a way to “flatten the curve” and spread the pressure on staff, warehouses and logistics.

Meanwhile, some retailers are boycotting Black Friday entirely. about 85% of UK independent retailers don’t participate, instead shutting down their websites for a day or donating some of their sales to charity. This is billed as a protest against over-consumption and its impact on the environment. It also highlights that smaller companies often at a disadvantage, unable to compete with major retailers’ discounts or deal with operational complexity.

Bringing products to people

Black Friday means that very large quantities of products have to travel through the various logistics channels. Peaks in demand are difficult for supply chains to handle at the best of times. And with a host of ongoing issues ranging from a shortage of microchips until not enough truck drivers, retailers are under more pressure than usual.

This creates a high demand for personnel, especially in view of the great shortage on the labor market. royal mail and Amazon each announced in October that they were targeting 20,000 temporary workers to meet consumer demand by the end of the year. Amazon has offered one-off payments of up to £3,000 to hire new staff, while many retailers have offered sign-up bonuses to drivers in recent months.

Logistics is hiring.

The increase of online shopping also reforms urban delivery patterns – and keep in mind that the dominance of e-commerce means that many products are still in transit for days after the sale. Instead of sending a large amount of products to one store, shipments become smaller and more fragmented. Loose items must be delivered to individual homes. This means that more drivers are needed to deliver the same amount of products to our door. Storage and packaging are also becoming more complex.

One contributing factor to the lack of truck drivers is that some qualified truck drivers decided to: switch to drive local vans instead. Not only is there a high demand for deliverers, working hours can also be more attractive. Consumers need to realize that all the packages they order and the rows of empty supermarket shelves are all part of the same system.

Black day for the environment

The carbon emissions we create by buying a simple t-shirt online can be four times higher than buying in a physical store. To put this in perspective, it would last 30 days for an ordinary deciduous tree to absorb the CO2 emissions caused by buying a T-shirt online (0.81 kg).

The COP26 climate conference will have awakened the awareness among many consumers of the importance of reaching global net zero by mid-century to keep global warming within reach. Rampant consumerism with the impulse buying that Black Friday can create is a major contributor to emissions.

It is true that many logistics companies are investing heavily in more environmentally friendly alternatives such as electric vehicles or deliveries by cargo bike. The carbon footprint of home delivery should therefore at the very least improve over time.

Nevertheless, consumers must look for alternatives. Many retailers offer a click and collect option. This allows customers to collect their belongings when it suits them, for example on their way to work, without extra trips and emissions.

Parcel lockers offer another convenient and eco-friendly alternative. They can help reduce congestion by having multiple items delivered to one location instead of individually delivered to the customer’s home. They also have great potential to save costs, reduces the number of driver hours required and takes the complexity out of the delivery system.

Such schemes also help reduce the number of failed deliveries. As much as 24% of e-commerce retailers admit that more than one in ten orders are not delivered on the first attempt, increasing emissions for redelivery or customer pick-up. And pretty much all of these organizations say they sometimes have deliveries that fail completely.

So before indulging in the next shopping spree, consumers should take a moment to think about what goes on behind the scenes. The pandemic has increased our growing penchant for online shopping and Black Friday seems likely to confirm that there is no end in sight.

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