REI has decided to close its stores on one of the biggest retail days of the holiday season — Black Friday.
The outdoor retailer penned the hashtag #OptOutside on a Twitter campaign to tell its customers that it was closing all its retail locations, headquarters and distribution centers so that its employees can spend time outside.
Jerry Stritzke, president and chief executive officer of REI, said, “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. We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there and inviting America to opt outside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.”
The company even created a separate Web site with a countdown clock and a request for people to share their outdoor activities planned for the day. So far over 600,000 have replied with their plans. The site also allows participants to enter their zip code for suggestions of places to explore nearby.
The strategy seems to have resonated with the REI consumer, which tends to be into recreational activities, but not recreational shopping. This customer may go camping, but not in a parking lot outside a store on Thanksgiving night. It’s definitely speaks to the backlash against the retailers that began opening on Thanksgiving itself and opening in the middle of the night with special sales.
Many felt that the low-paid retail workers had no choice but to leave their families on the holiday and report to work. Stritzke continued saying, “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 is a private company and its annual revenues were $2.2 billion in 2014, but since the company is also a co-op with 5.5 million members. It paid $168 million back in dividends to the members. So far it looks like members are happy with the company’s decision to close and willing to give up the sales and dividends for that day.