Empowering the Freelance Economy

Black Friday 2021: will it be the grinch that stole Christmas for freelance artisans and independent retailers? Or will shoppers hold out for the 4th of December?

Dr Jackie Mulligan is an expert working with the government to improve the standing of independent retailers on UK high streets, markets and online.
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OPINION

  • Small Business Saturday is on 4 December
  • According to the latest ONS retail data, 6 % of businesses still trading have little conficence that they still will be by February 2022

Black Friday is fast upon us (26 November). The latest ONS data is in and its not looking great for independent artisans and retailers. Psychologists and small business owners have described the annual shopping event as a “dystopia of empty, soulless deals”, “meaningless cheap fixes”, “vile consumerism” and “another awful gimmick that puts the kiss of death on small local businesses.” The Freelance Informer shares their views.

ONS data published this week shows a bleak picture for freelance artisans and independent retailers, that is if shoppers continue the majority of their shopping with big-name brands and mega online shopping platforms.

Jamie Rackham, founder of the Facebook group, NOT ON AMAZON, where close to 156,000 indie makers sell their products for free, says that if there are any beneficiaries of early Christmas trading, it’s the “leviathans of online retail, led by Amazon”.

He highlights that although the ONS figures show retail sales rose in October, he confirms that it’s “brutal out there right now”, with many small independents being hit by “a toxic cocktail of rising costs and inflation, reduced consumer spending power and the removal of financial support.”

Dr Jackie Mulligan, an expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force and founder of the local shopping platform, Shopappy agrees to some degree with Rackham and says if retail sales did rise in October, it’s not smaller high street shops that were benefiting but the giants of retail.

“We have over 4,000 small high street retailers and for them, overall, things have been getting harder, not easier, as we approach Christmas,” says Mulligan.


For those businesses that have not permanently stopped trading, 6% reported they have low or no confidence they will survive the next 3 months; this compares with 4% reported in early October 2021. That could mean, come February we could all be walking past more empty shops on our town and city high streets. I for one, do not want that.

That is why my go-to gift shop for friends and family is the historic The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, home to the second widest high street in England after Stockton-on-Tees. I am safe in the knowledge that many of the products there won’t be available elsewhere, making gift-giving all the more special. The pricing is competitive and actually beats big name high street prices for most things.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the value of meaning and the meaningless of cheap fixes,” says Linda Doe, a chartered psychologist at Apana.

“Black Friday fuels a grasping for consumer goods that satisfies deeply no one, neither the buyer nor the giver. It doesn’t matter if we are wealthy or poor, there is no personal richness in a dash for cheap consumer goods,” she says.

Dr Mulligan feels just as strongly about Black Friday:

“Black Friday is the Grinch that stole Christmas for many smaller retailers. The big beasts of online shopping have used this American import as a battering ram to grab people’s attention and drive a surge in revenue long before the traditional Christmas shopping rush. Black Friday purchases made on Amazon or other online giants are often a black eye to the small high street retailer. So this year, after the turmoil of the pandemic, we’re encouraging everyone, whenever possible, to shop local.”

Dr Jackie Mulligan, an expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force

Is Black Friday all it’s cracked up to be?

Michael Oszmann, founder of online marketplace, Buy Britain

Michael Oszmann, founder of online marketplace, Buy Britain believes that UK consumers have become increasingly sceptical about Black Friday.

“Are we really getting a bargain and saving money?” asks Oszmann. He adds: “Genuinely good deals are like needles in haystacks now. While price and value are still many people’s number one purchase drivers, there are now other considerations too: where has this product come from, what is it made from, does the company pay UK taxes?”

Rob Peters, director of Altrincham-based Simple Fast Mortgage, says “Black Friday seems like an excuse for retail giants to off-load last year’s old stock under the guise of a bargain deal to less savvy shoppers.”

“Do mega discounts really exist? asks Rachel Harvey, owner of Cleethorpes-based The Paint Box. “I can’t help but feel cynical that the big giants of online retail inflate prices to make discounts look more enticing. I would rather offer my customers good honest value all-year-round,” she says.

Rachel Hayward, managing director of the business bids and tenders specialist, Ask the Chameleon likens Black Friday to the “Grim Reaper for small businesses”.

“While we know that many people have had the toughest of times moneywise, all across the board, there are real humans behind a small business that just can’t compete with the bigger boys but offer products and services of a much higher quality. Shop small, shop local and support Small Business Saturday on 4 December and give two fingers to Black Friday.”

Rachel Hayward, Ask the Chameleon

There’s little doubt that many of us will continue to use the likes of Amazon for our quick fixes or specific items not found on our local high streets. However, if we stop to put some thought into our gift-giving the year-round, we may find that going independent was one of the best decisions we made. We will have a High Street worth going to go to.


The Grinch that Stole Christmas.

Want to buy from independents and freelancers and still shop online? Check out the different retailers on NOT ON AMAZON. Learn about how the community website started here.


🏵️Please feel free to share the name, location and URL of your favourite local shop or independent retailer in our comments section.

1 Comment
  1. Elizabeth Jones says

    I quite like my shop that I am in now, biased of course, but if you are looking for organic or natural baby or toddler gifts or essentials, I have a shop full of items for you 🙂

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