The final verdict on Black Friday is still pending, and in many circles that final word is eagerly awaited. As of right now, some are lauding a successful retail Hail Mary, while others yawn at what they see as moderate gains (at best).
But for a handful of retailers, the Black Friday returns are not a terribly important point of interest, because they decide to forfeit early in the race. REI opted outside: their attendant social media campaign showed people hiking and enjoying nature while eschewing the crowds at the mall.
They even closed their doors.
ModCloth did not close their doors — since they are a digital brand, they have no doors to close. They do however, have a website, and on Friday they shut it down, because they too just said no to Black Friday.
In fact, they broke up with it.
Breaking Up with Black Friday
“It’s been fun, Black Friday. You had the deals and the steals, but this year we’re looking for the feels. That’s why we’re breaking up with Black Friday and giving back,” the brand wrote on its blog.
On top of shutting down for the day, ModCloth also gave its employees a day off and donated $5 million in clothes to a nonprofit called Dress for Success instead. The retailer also built a social media campaign around rejecting consumerism. But instead of asking holiday shoppers to go outside, they instead decided to help them do some good.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and we wanted to do something different and remind our community that this time of year is about friends, family and helping others in need,” explained Nicole Haase, ModCloth’s vice president and general merchandising manager.
Their social media contest encouraged users to nominate someone who goes above and beyond by posting a picture or video to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #BlackFridayBreakup. One of those do-gooders will be singled out for recognition and win a $4,500 prize for their contributions to humanity.
ModCloth is new to the idea of removing Black Friday as a commerce holiday and instead building a better connection with its audience at a particularly valuable time of year. The site may have been down on Friday, but as of Saturday morning, commerce was up and running again, and Cyber Monday began just a little bit early.
It was an opportunity for ModCloth to encourage a bit of goodwill among its base consumers — some of whom have been alienated since Walmart acquired the brand earlier this year. (And that alienation has often come in the form of public complaints.)
Did It Work
ModCloth’s retail ploy certainly got users’ attention — with over 52,000 tweets and 135,000 followers jumping into the Dress for Success charity promotion via Twitter and a few hundred more getting in on the action via Instagram.
User commentary was for the most part positive, with holiday shoppers applauding ModCloth for donating to a worthy cause and breaking free of the Black Friday madness.
“Three cheers for ModCloth! I think it’s amazing you’re taking a stand against Black Friday; it brings out the worst in people, and it’s nice to see retailers and businesses take a stand to turn it around,” wrote “Katie” on ModCloth’s blog.
It even seemed to repair some of the damage between the brand and those who were initially worried about what the Walmart acquisition would do to change it.
“Well, at least we know ModCloth is still operating independently according to their values,” “C” noted.
Despite the charity promotion, for some customers, this show of goodwill was not adequate evidence that their once-beloved brand had not sold out to the dark side.
“So, it’s cheaper to donate money than to have a Black Friday sale? I’m disappointed ModCloth. I care nothing about your gestures to endear yourself to the millennial demographic. I just want to buy your clothes cheap — the brand that was established before the founders sold it,” wrote “Holly Patricia” on ModCloth’s site.
Incidentally, the internet was later won by a user name “Anti-Holly” who noted, sharply, that perhaps Holly did not quite understand the point of the holiday season:
“What You Sound Like: ‘I’m a deeply spoiled nonsense person who cares more about getting her way than literal acts of charity.’ I’d encourage you to check yourself, but it appears you have already wrecked yourself.”