REI Skips Black Friday and Opts Outside

Black Friday has traditionally been one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Last year alone, 86.9 million people shopped, resulting in sales of $50.9 billion. But murmurings of "Black Friday fatigue" have surfaced recently, with some organizations taking a different approach to the day – the most memorable being Patagonia's bold move urging consumers, "Don't Buy This Jacket". Now another major brand is stepping forward, standing by its values and opting-out of the retail holiday altogether.

This week, REI sent an email to its 5.5 million co-op members, notifying them that, for the first time, REI would be closing its doors on Black Friday. As part of the #OptOutside campaign, the outdoor retail giant will be closing all 143 locations and instead giving its employees a paid day off. REI is also encouraging consumers to ditch the regular Black Friday shopping mayhem and get out into nature. To that end, REI has created a dedicated #OptOutside website, with a section for users to enter their zip codes to find out what trails, parks and other outdoor activities are available in the area. The website also makes it easy for consumers to share what they plan to do outside on Black Friday with their social networks. Users can upload photos and select from a list of outdoor activities including running, riding, paddling or snowshoeing, then emblazon their image with the phrase "On Black Friday I'll be [insert activity], #OptOutside." So far, more than 680,000 people have uploaded photos and chosen to #OptOutside.

As a member-owned co-op REI, like a B Corp, is able to stand closely by its values. For REI, this core purpose is to "inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship," and the #OptOutside effort is in perfect alignment with the brand. As CEO Jerry Stritzke put it, "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?" And although executives at the company have acknowledged the one-two punch of closing its doors and paying employees for an extra day off will impact the bottom-line on what is a "top ten day" for the retailer, REI hopes standing by its values, employees and community will pay off in the long run. As with Patagonia's positive boost to the bottom line after "Don't Buy This Jacket," we're interested to see if and how this huge risk will pay off.

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