Why We Don’t Do Black Friday Sales

The Lab,  
Fred Perrotta

Note: The Tortuga store will be shoppable on Black Friday, but the Tortuga team will be taking the day off. If you have questions or need help with your order, we’ll get back to you on Monday.

Black Friday is a few days away. Cyber Monday is three days later. We will not be having a sale on either day. Not this year. Not next year.

Shopping online can save you from getting trampled at Wal-Mart, but you’re still part of the orgy of consumerism that is Black Friday.

Despite the flood of emails that you’ll get on Friday, 99% of the “deals” are bullshit.

So, no, we won’t be creating the illusion of savings to trick you into buying on a specific day of the year.

According to the National Retail Federation, “the holiday season can represent as much as 30 percent of annual sales” for some companies. Why? Because those brands have trained people to only buy when they have sales, and Black Friday is their biggest sale.

At Tortuga, we would rather build a sustainable business that makes money year round so that we can keep building great luggage for you.

Building for the Long Haul

Our goal has always been to build evergreen products that are worth buying at full price at any time of the year. We don’t want to be on the fast fashion treadmill of constantly introducing new products every season (or made up season) to keep people buying.

Read Overdressed for more on the societal costs of this approach.

Traditional wisdom says that brands need high-end products with planned obsolescence and many low-end products in order to increase customer lifetime value (the amount you’ve spent with us).

At Tortuga we know that bags which become obsolete quickly are shitty bags. We get as attached to our luggage as you do to yours. I don’t want to upgrade my backpack every year.

When we launched the Outbreaker Backpack, we heard from many customers who were excited for the new bag but were still using their V2 Tortuga Backpack. That’s a good thing.

If you don’t upgrade, we will make less money in the short-term. But we’re in this business for the long-term, so that’s fine. If you’re happy with your bag, we will benefit eventually. Either you will upgrade when you actually need a new bag, or you will tell your friends to buy a Tortuga travel backpack.

You should only buy a new bag if you need it for a trip and have the money for it. Not only because it’s new or is on sale.

You don’t have to be a minimalist, or a millennial, to believe that less is more. We believe in buying fewer, but higher quality, things. Go spend the rest of your money on experiences.

The Downsides of Discounting

Today, we’re talking about Black Friday sales, but this discussion can apply to all sales.

Businesses are too dependent on sales to move inventory, and we, as consumers, have become addicted to them. Department stores are some of the worst offenders. Do they even sell anything at full price? If they do, you would know better than to ever buy it. Bed, Bath, and Beyond is perpetually 20% off if you have the coupon that they mail to every living human every single week.

We agree with Kevin’s post on why Mizzen + Main doesn’t discount. Let’s stop playing games and have an honest conversation about what stuff costs and why you should buy it.

Here is an honest number: The Outbreaker Backpack costs us 123% more to make than the V2 Tortuga Backpack did. But you can buy it for just 50% more.

We sell our bags online directly to you to manage costs. As a vertical commerce brand, Tortuga can make highly technical packs with the best components on the market. If we had to sell our bags at retail, they would cost twice as much. This pricing power lets us control the product and messaging. We don’t have to be dependent on parasitic business models that profit by selling other brands’ products as a discount.

A Day to Skip Work-Life Integration

The most important business reason that we don’t do Black Friday sales is the human side of the business.

I didn’t fully appreciate this until Taylor, our Marketing Director, explained what a typical Black Friday looked like at her old job working with retail clients:

  • 8:00 PM, Thanksgiving: Say goodbye to family. I need a good night’s sleep before tomorrow.
  • 9:00 PM, Thanksgiving: Check and respond to emails. Make sure there are no last-minute changes.
  • 10:00 PM, Thanksgiving: Triple-check all ads, email campaigns, and social posts. I’ve scheduled everything already. Right now, I’m just making sure everything’s set to go live at the right time. If it doesn’t, it’s a six-figure problem and it’s my fault.
  • 3:00 AM, Black Friday: Ad campaigns are scheduled to turn on. My alarm goes off. I roll out of bed, blearily open my laptop, and check everything one more time. I check every campaign’s settings and click every. single. ad. to make sure the links are correct and that tracking works.
  • 3:45 AM, Black Friday: Go back to bed.
  • 6:00 AM, Black Friday: Second alarm goes off. I rush to my laptop and open Google Analytics. I see how revenue looks thus far. I compare actual results to my forecasts.
  • 7:00 AM, Black Friday: Get ready for work. Drive into the office.
  • 8:00 AM – ?? PM, Black Friday: I’m on call, so to speak, at work. I’m required to be in the office in case something doesn’t go well, and we need to spring into action. Sometimes, Black Friday was a relatively chill day of refreshing Google Analytics, adjusting bids and budgets, and monitoring social media. Other times, it was a day of stress and anxiety and frustration. The latter happened when revenue was lower than the client’s goals. I try not to think about those times.

Then repeat on Monday.

I want our team to relax and enjoy their holiday weekend on Black Friday. We’ll be closed on Thanksgiving, because they (and I) should be enjoying a four-day weekend, not rushing back to work on Friday for the most stressful day of the year.

Most years, I’d prefer to spend Friday lying around in my sweatpants and eating leftovers, not refreshing our sales numbers.

Here’s how Taylor plans to spend her Black Friday, in contrast to the schedule above.

  • ?? AM, Black Friday: Wake up without an alarm.
  • Walk to Dad’s kitchen. Ask if there’s leftover pie.
  • Make espresso. Eat pie for breakfast.
  • Go hiking with Dad.
  • Eat more leftovers. Maybe exclusively pie.

A Better Way

There is a better way. If you want to give for a purpose, not just spend money on more junk, check out Giving Tuesday a charitable counter-balance to Black Friday.

I was also impressed by REI’s Opt Outside program. Instead of a sale, REI closed its online store and asked people to go outside that day.

Since most of the “deals” aren’t really deals, you aren’t missing anything by skipping Black Friday. Go spend the day with your family, out in nature, or both. Any business or charity that will take your money on Friday will take it next week.

If someone on your list needs a travel backpack or maybe a Tortuga gift card, all of our products will be available for the entire holiday season. 🙂