Outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer REI is canceling Black Friday this year. No promotions, no hourly sales, no doorbusters, no waiting in line.
In an unprecedented move for the modern-day holiday shopping season, REI’s 143 stores will be closed the day after Thanksgiving. The co-op business plans to launch a campaign Tuesday encouraging people to forgo shopping to spend time outside instead. With the hashtag #OptOutside, REI will ask people to share what they’re doing on Black Friday on social media.
REI is taking direct aim at the frenzied consumerism that dominates the holidays with a message to do the exact opposite of what Black Friday demands.
“Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea,” says REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who admits he was apprehensive about closing at first. “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 is hoping to convince consumers to start a new Black Friday tradition, one that doesn’t involve buying anything. It has built a dedicated #OptOutside website with resources on local hiking trails. REI’s campaign was built with its employees and customers in mind — the company operates as a co-op, with roughly 5.5 million members who pay a one-time fee for a share of the business. Members contribute to at least 80% of REI’s sales.
REI will have no Black Friday promotions and won’t process any online orders until Saturday. Just a small handful of its approximately 12,000 employees will be on call, while the rest get a paid day off.
The decision to close on Black Friday is bold in an industry that has practically made the day a mandatory part of business, not only because customers demand it, but because the bottom line often does, too. The holiday shopping season is the biggest, and most competitive, time of year for retailers, with Black Friday at the center of the hoopla.