REI Says No to Black Friday, Will Close Stores

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The sporting goods chain is urging its customers and its workers to get outside instead of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. Will that pay off in the long term?

While retailers across the country are unveiling their store hours for Black Friday, and in some cases, Thanksgiving Day, a Washington-based outdoor and sporting goods retailer is making headlines for doing the unthinkable.

REI is closing its stores on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.

In addition to giving its employees Thanksgiving Day off, the outdoor retailer announced it’s also locking its doors on Black Friday and paying its workers to head outside instead.

It’s part of REI’s #OptOutside campaign, an effort to encourage its employees and customers alike to skip Black Friday shopping and get outdoors. Click here and enter your ZIP code on REI’s website to find outdoor activities near you.

“We believe that being outside makes our lives better,” REI CEO Jerry Stritzke wrote in a letter explaining REI’s decision to close Nov. 27. “We’re a different kind of company — and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently.”

Although you can place online orders through REI on that Friday, REI workers won’t process those orders until Saturday.

Snubbing one of the biggest shopping days of the year is a bold move for the retailer, which operates as a co-op business with 12,000 employees and 5.5 million members.

REI’s promotional hashtag has been trending on Twitter since the retailer announced its plans, The Oregonian reports.

Although some people perceive REI’s Black Friday closure as nothing more than smart marketing, the overall response has been positive.

“Normally I don’t click on promoted Tweets, but @REI giving all of their employees a paid #BlackFriday off warrants it. Well done #OptOutside,” Drew Gibson posted on Twitter.

Nick Rod wrote: “I take back everything I have ever said about @REI. This is bold and I love it. #optoutside

Paco Underhill, founder of New York retail research firm Envirosell, has worked with REI in the past. He told The Oregonian that REI’s decision to remain closed on Black Friday and encourage its workers and customers to get outdoors is a good one.

“REI has a long history of being both good to its customers and its employees,” Underhill said. “Americans are a little fed up with all of the Black Friday rigmarole, and REI was smart enough to have its finger on the pulse.”

REI told The Oregonian that Black Friday is typically one of the retailer’s biggest sales days of the year. Even so, REI is gambling that promoting the company’s values will pay off in the long run.

After being open to shoppers on Thanksgiving in both 2013 and 2014, Staple’s recently announced it’s locking its doors on Thanksgiving and giving its employees the day off.

I dislike crowds, and I like shopping in crowds even less, so any shopping I do on Black Friday is typically online. I also live in northern Montana, where below-freezing temperatures and snow often keep us indoors in late November, but if the weather permits, I’ll answer REI’s call to #OptOutside.

What do you think of REI’s decision to close its doors on Black Friday? Do you shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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