Outdoor and sportswear retailer REI won’t open any of its 143 stores for Black Friday this year and will pay its 12,000 employees for the day off, the retailer announced Monday.
In fact, the retailer is encouraging consumers to spend the whole Thanksgiving holiday weekend with friends and family outside, and has launched the social media hashtag #OptOutside for customers to share updates of their activities on social media.
President/CEO Jerry Stritzke said he wasn’t sold on the idea at first, but believes that good deals can be had before and after Thanksgiving weekend and that it doesn’t have to be dominated by consumerism.
REI will see any retailer closed on Thanksgiving, and raise them one Black Friday. The retailer says it is challenging everyone to think about reserving the entire Thanksgiving weekend for family time and hikes in the woods, rather than for shopping.
"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," Stritzke told USA Today. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?”
REI employees will be paid on Black Friday, and the retailer has established a dedicated website to the idea of #OptOutside, with a zip code-based search feature to find nearby activities like hiking and cycling opportunities, and a gallery of images to attach to social media shout-outs to the idea.
“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth,” Stritzke writes on the site, by way of explanation. “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. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”
It remains to be seen how brilliant a move this is; after all, Black Friday for decades has been a make-or-break day that determines the bottom lines of many retailers for the entire year.
But that has changed drastically in recent years, with Black Friday losing its significance, for a variety of reasons. E-commerce has people shopping at all times of the weekend, including Thanksgiving. And many retailers have blurred lines themselves by moving sales up to earlier in November and even October, and keeping sales going up to Christmas Eve.
In fact, retailers open Thanksgiving Day, something that rankles many, don’t tend to boost their Black Friday haul, just spread it more thinly over the weekend.
USA Today spoke to one REI store manager, who has already organized an ice hockey game the day after Thanksgiving.
"Somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough," Brian Harrower told the paper, saying he won’t be shopping that day. "That's what #OptOutside is for us, is saying we're going to be the first, we think this doesn't make sense anymore, it's not healthy. And an outdoor life is a healthy life. There's so many other days to get the same deals.”