This Friday is black, can the next one be in another colour?
Let the next Friday be Funday!
Black Friday is an event imported from the USA when beginning of Christmas shopping season opens with discounts and sales. If falls on the day after another American holiday, Thanksgiving. It is fairly interesting to observe how a tradition from another continent penetrates our cultural space, but it's also understandable that we're living in a globalised society and there's nothing to unusual about it. Still, Black Friday phenomena makes us think about some of it's marginal aspects.
This day offers significant discounts. Shops drive down their prices and make irresistible offers. But discounts are interesting not just as an opportunity to buy something at a lower price, they actually expose the shop's and producers' profit margins. It's impossible not to ask ourselves, if they can offer us 50% discounts today, how come that's not possible tomorrow? Markets work in a rather complicated ways. Companies have risks of doing their businesses, operational costs and at the same time try to make money for their owners. Also, profit margins vary between industries and niches. Discounts therefore follow the principle - what can we as a company afford, and do we even need to higher our sales. For example, exclusive brands almost do not participate in Black Friday - they simply do not need to as their sales drivers are not discounts.
As a non-profit worker's cooperative, Slobodna domena also faces market logic and principles. We are forced to be aware of our own profit margin, running costs and risk. That's not always simple to do, especially when there are great ideas and projects on the horizon while at the same time we can not afford to work on them. It's great that we, unlike classical companies, do not have to make profit for owners. Yes, we strive to be profitable, since we need the money to invest it in our Solidarity Fund for socially beneficiary projects, but we do not exist to make profits. So, in that sense, we defined several pricing models for our services. Our discounts are not tied to Black Fridays or Fundays, but to customer's profiles. For example, we offer a 25% discount for socially responsible organisations. If there is a project for which we believe that it's really important, there are mechanisms to lower the price even more. But our profit margin is set at around 30% of the price. For everything we do for a lower price than that, it's us who is paying to work with the customer. If we can afford that, and there is motive, we're perfectly fine with that as well.
Our customers understand us very well. Recently we had a situation when we have sent a quote to a socially responsible company which fights for income on the commercial market. Since we respect their values, we even volunteered for them in the past, but this time they did not ask us to do that. We made a quote in which we stated the full price and a discount. Their response was that they are ready to pay full price, as they can afford it at this point. Such solidarity is completely opposite to the Black Friday culture and we are proud to be a part of an ecosystem which works like that.
In the 1990's, Buy Nothing Day was introduced as an alternative to Black Friday. An activist group called Adbusters stood behind this initiative which was warning us about the ecological consequences of consumer culture. It's an important topic and Adbusters have addressed it in an inspiring and imaginative manner. Still, the answer to consumer culture can not be abstinence but it's in building solidarity systems which do not care about profits but for people, communities and environment.