REI is thumbing its nose at the nation's busiest shopping day and will be closed on Black Friday. The specialty outdoor retailer is instead encouraging consumers to "OptOutside," and will pay all 12,000 employees anyway.
"Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside," said Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO. "We're closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks."
REI—a consumer co-op with 5.5 million members—will close all 143 of its retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.
"As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money. We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors," Stritzke said. "We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles. Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside."
REI will instead host a special online event at OptOutside.rei.com that features hiking trail recommendations and serves as a space where employees and members are encouraged to share their outdoor experiences. On Black Friday, REI.com will feature a black screen urging shoppers to #OptOutside.
Stritzke quoted outdoor visionary John Muir, who said in 1901, "thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home."
In truth, specialty retailers have long struggled to compete on Black Friday with big-box discount and department stores, and specialty retailers in the consumer electronics and toy categories. Hosting competitive sales on Black Friday doesn't make sense for all retailers, but being closed completely is a marketing move that could otherwise increase sales as shoppers in opposition of early Christmas sales vote with their digital dollars.
Millions of U.S. consumers might be shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving Day or camping out for predawn doorbusters, but REI is betting that its core customer would either prefer to camp outdoors or will seek deals elsewhere, regardless.
-See this REI announcement
-See this MarketWatch story
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