Just last month Patagonia placed an essay smack-dab in the middle of their fall catalog, rich with arguments from the company’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, encouraging readers to “consume less.” His essay invites customers to join Patagonia in its effort to explore ways to reduce consumption and become a more “responsible economy.” The company is already taking action – placing disclaimers on their e-commerce site like, “Don’t buy this shirt unless you need it,” and also participating in Black Friday - encouraging customers to bring in their old clothing to be repaired instead of purchasing new.
Some may be questioning “why now?”, but this effort isn’t a complete 180º from the company’s core philosophy. In 2005 Patagonia started the “Common Threads Initiative,” which pushed customers to take a pledge to only buy products they need and reuse what they have. Chouinard wrote another essay back in 2004 saying, “We want to make the best clothes and make them so they will last a long, long time. Our idea is to make the best product so you can consume less and consume better.”
Others wonder if Chouinard is truly genuine or if this is all just a ploy to trick people into becoming brand loyal, thus purchasing more Patagonia products. For instance, the retailer put out a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline “Don’t buy this jacket” back in 2011, resulting in annual sales the next two years growing almost 40 percent.
Skeptics claim this year’s Black Friday arrangement is merely just a scheme to bring people into the store, hoping these visits will lead to buying new items. Could this just be a clever strategy, perhaps playing a little reverse psychology on their customers? We’ll let you decide. But either way, the retailer seems to be confusing a fair amount of their customers – some who may feel guilty zipping up their $300 brand-new Patagonia jacket this winter.