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'We’re trying to move away from buying presents for the sake of it' - small businesses go green as they shun Black Friday discount pressure

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Meadhbh O’ Leary Fitzpatrick and Bronwyn Connolly are urging shoppers to 'Go Green' on Black Friday

Meadhbh O’ Leary Fitzpatrick and Bronwyn Connolly are urging shoppers to 'Go Green' on Black Friday

Buy local: Preparations are under way at the Kilkenny store on Nassau street in Dublin as a model makes a uniquely Irish style statement ahead of Green Friday this week. Photo: Photocall Ireland

Buy local: Preparations are under way at the Kilkenny store on Nassau street in Dublin as a model makes a uniquely Irish style statement ahead of Green Friday this week. Photo: Photocall Ireland

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Meadhbh O’ Leary Fitzpatrick and Bronwyn Connolly are urging shoppers to 'Go Green' on Black Friday

The average Irish shopper is expected to spend up to €300 on Black Friday this year. But the shopping frenzy has sparked concern among the climate conscious, with thousands of delivery trucks expected to take to the roads - not to mention the mounds of packaging.

In 2017, Ireland produced more than one million tonnes of packaging waste for the first time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

After a successful first year, the team behind the Wild Design Collective, supporting Irish and ethically made gifts, are encouraging the public to shop green this year.

The Co Cork-based shop is also asking businesses to consider alternative methods to mass discounts on products this Friday.

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Buy local: Preparations are under way at the Kilkenny store on Nassau street in Dublin as a model makes a uniquely Irish style statement ahead of Green Friday this week. Photo: Photocall Ireland

Buy local: Preparations are under way at the Kilkenny store on Nassau street in Dublin as a model makes a uniquely Irish style statement ahead of Green Friday this week. Photo: Photocall Ireland

Buy local: Preparations are under way at the Kilkenny store on Nassau street in Dublin as a model makes a uniquely Irish style statement ahead of Green Friday this week. Photo: Photocall Ireland

In 2018, over 170 small businesses joined in on the Green Friday movement, reaching more than 25,000 people on social media, Wild Design founder Bronwyn Connolly said.

Ms Connolly said Black Friday can put pressure on small businesses to discount during the Christmas season.

"It's not a sustainable model for small business owners to give things away at 50pc off," she told the Irish Independent.

"It's a difficult balance to strike; on the one hand retain that authentic value in your work and in your business that so many people do want nowadays, but also compete pricewise with retailers that can offer hardcore discounts on products that they can make or purchase much cheaper.

"So, Black Friday as a sales concept doesn't really work for small business, particularly those involved in the artisan production or craft side of things."

Last year, a number of smaller retailers offered free gift wrapping or discounts on neighbouring shops as an alternative to slashed prices. Others hosted live music and discussion panels in store.

This year, Ms Connolly has pledged to plant a tree for every customer that shops with them on Friday.

"We're thinking of it as more of a thank you to customer, and an experience on the day. A customer won't remember 10pc off an item, but they will remember the experience," she said.

Ms Connolly noted it's also a way for people to take small steps towards cutting down on packaging this Christmas.

"There's definitely a focus on sustainability this year. Some retailers are using brown paper for wrapping, others using compostable packaging."

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Also launching a Green Friday initiative this week is the Kilkenny group, which is encouraging the public to champion local businesses and support the creative community.

Kilkenny CEO Marian O'Gorman said a survey by the group found 84pc of shoppers prefer to buy from Irish retailers.

"We, as consumers, need to appreciate the fundamental fact that by keeping money in circulation in our own communities, we are protecting jobs and public services," Ms O'Gorman said.

In Dublin, Irish online store Chaos+Harmony has launched 'Fashionably Upending Black Friday' (FUBF2019).

Over 40 retailers are taking part in the market at The Well, St Stephen's Green, from 10am until 6pm on Friday for a "celebration of small independent businesses", with vendors donating money to Pieta House in exchange for a spot.

Founder Róisín Scott recalls the "chaos" of her first Black Friday - which landed three weeks after she first launched her company.

After seeing a similar initiative in New York, she launched a pop-up market on Black Friday last year with only five businesses, growing to over 40 this year.

"Black Friday is a really difficult time of year for small businesses to navigate. You're kind of thinking, after building up your brand and brand values, are you doing yourself a disservice by feeling under pressure to discount your products," Ms Scott said.

She created the FUBF website and social media pages for potential customers to see what's in store on Friday ahead of time, in a bid to turn away from panic buying for Christmas.

"We're hoping that people can arrive, maybe have a list with them and make a more informed buying decision," she told the Irish Independent.

"It's about making a more conscious effort with where you're putting your money.

"We're trying to move away from buying presents for the sake of it."

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