Design company raises prices on Black Friday in support of craftspeople

Business news: San Francisco studio Wood Thumb is opposing Black Friday's discounting frenzy by upping the price of its products, adding a "Maker's Bonus" for its craftspeople.

"I'm concerned that the mega-sales of Black Friday have painful, negative impacts on retail workers and craftspeople in the United States and around the world," said Wood Thumb founder Christopher Steinrueck in an open letter.

"Every year, as the spectacle of retail sales gets bigger, consumers are being lured into discounts and deals that fuel competitive greed, a proliferation of cheap disposable products, and poor treatment of the workers behind the scenes in the hope of maximising profits for shareholders."

Wood Thumb raises prices on Black Friday in support of crafters
Wood Thumb make all their products in workshops local to San Francisco

Black Friday takes place after Thanksgiving in the USA, when retailers slash prices of goods for a day to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It is now taking hold in other parts of the world, with stores cashing in on the opportunity to sell-off old stock.

Wood Thumb is the latest company to protest against Black Friday's retail frenzies. UK furniture brand Vitsœ decided to close its stores in London and New York, while US outdoor pursuits brand REI has made headlines for boycotting the event with a campaign called OptOutside.

But Steinrueck has gone a step further, deciding to raise prices by 20 per cent. The extra funds raised will be given to the crafters that make the brand's products, as a thank you for their hard work.

The gesture is intended to highlight the relationship between the brand and the people behind it.

"As consumers move from mega-sale to mega-sale, the relationship with the amazing people who make the products is lost," said Steinrueck.

Wood Thumb raises prices on Black Friday in support of crafters
Wood Thumb's products are all made from reclaimed timber

Founded in 2010, Wood Thumb's products include menswear accessories, homeware and garden tools, which are made from reclaimed timber in workshops local to San Francisco. It employs 12 people across its design studio, factory, and retail store in the city's SoMa neighbourhood.

"Even in the face of skyrocketing rents and limited space, it has been our top priority to keep making things here with the people we care about," said Steinrueck. "Our makers are not replaceable labourers — they are our family, friends, and teachers. And they deserve our respect."

On Black Friday in 2011, outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia ran a full page advert in the New York Times that told readers not to buy the pictured jacket for environmental reasons.

Wood Thumb raises prices on Black Friday in support of crafters
The company's products include menswear accessories, homeware and garden tools

These campaigns are part of a wider move towards "anti-marketing" within design. Earlier this year, Dezeen Watch Store launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign titled Buy a normal watch in response to the Apple Watch release.

Images are from Wood Thumb's Instagram page.

Read Christopher Steinrueck's open letter to customers below:


We're raising our prices on Black Friday, and here's why

Every year on Black Friday, I'm faced with a moral dilemma as founder and CEO of Wood Thumb in San Francisco. Do I or don't I slash prices and participate in the consumer frenzy of that day?

Like every retailer in the US, I'm led to believe that this is my greatest opportunity to sell, to turn a quick profit, and make it into "the black" for the year. And historically, this has been somewhat true. In years past, the holiday season has helped Wood Thumb move out of our basement, hire employees, design new products, and grow into the stable company we are today. But, on a broader level, I'm concerned that the mega-sales of Black Friday have painful, negative impacts on retail workers and crafts people in the United States and around the world.

Every year, as the spectacle of retail sales gets bigger, consumers are being lured into discounts and deals that fuel competitive greed, a proliferation of cheap disposable products, and poor treatment of the workers behind the scenes in the hope of maximising profits for shareholders. As consumers move from mega-sale to mega-sale, the relationship with the amazing people who make the products is lost.

At Wood Thumb, we work hard everyday to build quality, long-lasting relationships with the people who use the things we make: we want everyone who wears a wood tie or opens a beer with one of our bottle openers to connect with the skilled crafters who made the goods you enjoy. Our makers are not replaceable labourers — they are our family, friends, and teachers. And they deserve our respect.

So, this year, we've decided to do things a bit differently. For one day only, we are raising our prices by 20 per cent. This extra cash is going directly to the talented team of crafters who work hard to make Wood Thumb products great. This is much more than a way to give our workers an extra holiday bonus – it is a small first step towards breaking down the clouded boundaries between makers and consumers.

Since its founding, Wood Thumb has been committed to making our products in San Francisco. Even in the face of skyrocketing rents and limited space, it has been our top priority to keep making things here with the people we care about. We have noticed that this attention to community and transparent manufacturing has led directly to high-quality products and outstanding relationships with thousands of customers across the country.

This Black Friday, I want to see everyone benefit – our customers as well as our workers. And, perhaps, Wood Thumb will be able to grow a little in the process as well. We are building a company that is focused on transparent relationships between makers and consumers. Understanding who is making our products and where they are being made has the power to spark a new kind of relationship with the things we use everyday.

Even if you don't end up buying something from Wood Thumb on Friday, I urge you to keep the people behind the products in mind as you look for presents this holiday season.

Sincerely,

Christopher Steinrueck