We live in a fast paced, dynamic, new world and cultures are responding to the influences of globalization. The trends of consumerism and merchandising are also continuously shifting. As a cultural practitioner, I wear a cultural lens to see a 360 degree shift in global consumer culture,specifically in Pakistani context.
In the past five years, we have seen a major shift in consumer culture in Pakistan. Another shift is that retailers have started offering discounts on the Valentine’s Day. All brands offer maximum variety in red color to celebrate the day, while being unaware of the cultural context and historical background for the celebration of Saint Valentine’s Day. We see trending sales and thematic green variety of clothes, jewelry and accessories put on display, to be sold on Pakistani national days such as March 23rd, and August 14th.
Often, it becomes mandatory for all children to wear green on the national days in schools. There are lots of beautiful designs for women in black color for Ashura in the first month of Islamic Calendar, Muharram, but unfortunately, with no discounts.
Then comes, Black Friday! The name was given to the shopping day after Thanksgiving. It was originally called Black Friday because so many people went out to shop that it caused traffic accidents and sometimes violence. Black Friday now, is a shopping day for a variety of reasons. As the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas, it marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Black Friday comes with a lot of publicity and fanfare, with offers up to 70% off on entire stocks and that makes it the biggest sale since the stores would generally offer up to 70% off on end of season sales on selected articles only.
In the past couple of years, our retailers have offered the biggest Black Friday sales, which is a dream come true for women, including myself. There has been criticism about calling Friday a black day, since Friday is a sacred day for Muslims across the world. The significance of this is demonstrated by the fact that it is generally presumed that the Hajj performed on Friday is called Hajj-e-Akbar and it is a superior kind of Hajj as compared with the Hajj performed on other days of the week, although there is no such reference in the Qur’an. In 2017, as Black Friday got closer, Pakistani social media users actively criticized the usage of the term “Black Friday” citing the religious significance of Friday in Muslim culture. They claimed that associating the word “Black” with “Friday” violated the sanctity of the auspicious day. Thus, amid criticism over the usage of term “Black Friday” in Pakistan, many brands changed the name of their campaign sale from Black Friday to Big Friday or White Friday!
This year, in 2018, the marketing gurus in Pakistan gave a free reign to their creative imagination and turned the Black Friday sales into a rainbow of Fridays, by using a variety of terms such as ‘White Friday, Super Friday, Happy Friday, Good Friday, Great Friday, Golden Friday, Fancy Friday, Big Friday, Blessed Friday, Friday Bazar, Mega Friday, Green Friday, Pink Friday and Fantastic Friday’ for increased profits without hurting anyone’s religious sentiments.
Although, it is a blessing to have huge discounts and we should encourage such sales so that people with low purchasing power can make the most out of it, yet, it is an irony that there are no discounts or sales on any religious festivals and other significant days such as Ramazan, Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Ashura, Eid Milad-un-Nabi or Christmas.
Women are the main target as well as major beneficiaries of these sales. As agents of change, we should not only critically think on such small but significant issues but also raise our voices to create
an impact to teach our youth about simplicity and respect for our religion in true essence so that they can bring change in the overall mindset. Since social media has proved itself as an effective tool for bringing social change, we can use it positively to create awareness, not only among masses but business owners, government officials, as well as civil society, to emphasize on the need of such sales, to be introduced ahead of religious festivals too. Maybe we can introduce Blessed Friday Sale Spree in Ramzan for Eid celebrations so that the underprivileged communities can embrace real happiness too, while celebrating their religious festivals. HH
The writer is a historian working with Center for Culture and Development, Islamabad also affiliated with National Committee of ICOM Pakistan.