REI gives workers the day off on Black Friday

Discussion
Oct 28, 2015
George Anderson

REI was already giving its employees Thanksgiving off. Then management decided that wasn’t enough and gave them Black Friday off as well, with pay.

In a move that is not likely to be repeated by many other retailers, the nation’s largest co-op and specialty outdoor retailer announced the launch of campaign #OptOutside, encouraging Americans to forego shopping for a couple of days and instead spend time with family and friends. A total of 12,000 employees at REI’s 143 stores, headquarters and two distribution centers will be affected by the decision to close on Black Friday.

"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," said Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, in a statement. "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 has set up an #OptOutside website, optoutside.rei.com, which enables visitors to search for local hiking trails. The site also provides an opportunity for people to share their outdoor experiences with others.

REI #OptOutside

Source: optoutside.rei.com

For those wondering whether REI will shut down its e-commerce site on Black Friday, the company has announced it will display a black takeover screen encouraging customers to #OptOutside and shop another time.

While Black Friday is not as important to overall holiday sales as in the past, nearly 87 million people chose to shop on the day last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Black Friday also, according to USA Today, was one of the top 10 busiest days of the year for REI.

What is your reaction to REI’s decision to close on Thanksgiving and Black Friday? Will the move and #OptOutside campaign win or lose REI customers? How will the strategy affect the company’s workforce?

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"Genius marketing move. REI stays true to its roots and generates giant press attention for closing on retail’s biggest day. It’s hard to imagine a bigger bang for the buck!"

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21 Comments on "REI gives workers the day off on Black Friday"


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Cathy Hotka
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Genius marketing move. REI stays true to its roots and generates giant press attention for closing on retail’s biggest day. It’s hard to imagine a bigger bang for the buck!

Max Goldberg
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

I salute REI for giving their employees the day off, but fear that it will hurt their sales. It’s good for publicity, but bad for the bottom line.

Zel Bianco
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

The #OptOutisde campaign will win customers and inspire greater loyalty in those that already shop at REI. This is an excellent PR move that focused on the personality and desires of this specific store’s shoppers. A similar move would not work in most other stores. Also, the expert advice of the REI staff is highly sought after and giving them time off to test out the gear and then return for the holiday season is a great way to both boost moral and encourage a positive talking point when customers come into the store.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

It is great press. I am already deluged by the story from every media outlet I turn to.

Regarding “encouraging Americans to forego shopping for a couple of days and instead spend time with family and friends,” c’mon. Americans will just go to stores that are open.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
5 years 4 months ago

Kudos to REI. The company remains a co-op since its founding, so it doesn’t have the financial markets’ quarterly winds to deal with. They can take a long-term approach to their business and their workforce.

The #OptOutside campaign is brilliant in standing out in a busy marketing environment and will resonate with their customers. I expect the company workforce to give strong support!

Tim Cote
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Since REI was never really a big Black Friday promoter, I would guess it was not a huge sales day for them, in fact in may have been a fairly weak day.

Shep Hyken
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Great move for REI for several reasons.

First, the publicity will far outweigh what they might lose in sales, if they lose anything.

Second, they are making a bold statement by going against what most retailers are doing. Almost disrupts the norm of Black Friday.

Third, their employees who are already happy to be part of REI are now even happier. They are already proud to be part of REI and are now even prouder. That makes for more engaged employees, which is good for both the company and the customer/member.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Brilliant decision! They are saying we will be successful without all the Thanksgiving and Black Friday turmoil. They are saying our people are important to us. Great decision! Applause!

Jonathan Marek
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

It makes sense for someone to do this if only for the PR value that you can see manifesting right now. But of course it only make sense for a retailer where BF isn’t a huge deal (which rules out most)… And you probably only get most of the PR if you go first. So cool idea, but not replicable.

Tim Moerke
Guest
Tim Moerke
5 years 4 months ago

It’s a good move that shows that they care about their employees, and it will earn them some positive publicity. That said, I don’t think they would do this if Black Friday was a major sales day for them, and thus they feel they will gain more from this move than they will lose.

Jen Johnston
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

If my Facebook news feed last night was any indication, current REI customers are delighted with the sentiment. But will they actually #OptOutside on Black Friday as a result? I doubt it unless REI was the only place they had intended to scope out Black Friday deals. So will they reserve any dollars for REI? That is the great unknown and the risk. Will their employees #OptOutside on their paid day off? Perhaps, but I have to wonder if a good portion will be excited for the chance to get out and shop other Black Friday sales. Still, the campaign reflects well on the company and is bringing a lot of positive press. Maybe Black Friday wasn’t a big $ generator for them to begin with and so the risk of lost sales is worth it.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
5 years 4 months ago

Kudos to Cathy Hotka’s answer — about it being a great marketing move, but also for getting extensive publicity for their outdoor program at the same time! They’re ahead of the game where research is now showing that there have been fewer discounts and fewer discounted products on Black Friday and “The Holidays” in general the past years.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
5 years 4 months ago

It would be interesting to know how much in advertising money they are saving by not having to include their flier in the pounds of ads that are distributed to the public on that day. A chief competitor, Patagonia, has been making Black Friday anti-consumerism moves for a few years now which I am sure REI has been studying carefully. They know their customers and if/when/for what they have shopped in the past over this holiday. They know what their operating costs and profits have been to service those customers and those days. They probably can reasonably guess that if their customers need a new safari hat or hiking pole for an upcoming adventure they will come for it on a different day.

I don’t think they deserve either kudos or scorn. This is retail. REI is just choosing to be a specialty business to its primary customers and active employees.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Can you hear the sound of rising applause? I think the #OptOutside campaign is a wonderful tribute to the REI brand and will be appealing to younger consumers who value brand values and transparency.

The world will not end with one less day of shopping, and if a retailer like REI and others have products that consumers value, the sales will normalize over the holiday period whether or not Black Friday is available.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Sorry, folks, but I’m going to be the lone dissenter here. While I don’t approve of Thanksgiving hours, and am equally tired of Black Friday hype, I don’t see this as a constructive antidote. Retailers don’t exist to “engage…and galvanize” people, they exist to offer things for people to buy. This doesn’t do that.

Brian Kelly
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Shrewd decision.

  • Friday post TDay is a big day on the calendar. That revenue and more ought to be picked up
  • The favorable and abundant coverage should take care of that
  • The stunt should bring in more customers
  • Most folks like to play for a winner. REI looks like a leader.
David Livingston
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

Maybe REI just doesn’t do well on Black Friday. Companies don’t do this to be nice. There is always a financial reason. Maybe too many employees are no-shows. I wonder if they will shut their web site down? Good for REI getting extra mileage on something they wanted to do anyway.

George Anderson
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

REI move is gutsy for the simple reason that the company told USA Today that it is one of its top 10 selling days of the year. It is also right on brand. Here’s to hoping the move pays off.

Matt Talbot
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

This decision seems like a total win-win to me. On one hand, the good press around this announcement has to have generated new REI fans in the market while simultaneously further galvanizing their robust legion of brand evangelists.

On the other hand, this is a huge win for employee satisfaction. REI has a reputation for happy, helpful salespeople and an extra day off over Thanksgiving will help these staffers return to work with more pep in their step for the busy holiday selling season.

Lastly, it will be interesting to see if REI sees a boost to Cyber Monday sales and increased brick and mortar sales in December.

Arie Shpanya
Guest
5 years 4 months ago

This is a strong decision for REI from a branding standpoint. Being closed on Thanksgiving/Black Friday to encourage (and even facilitate) going outdoors is in-line with their brand values. They will lose sales, but the loyalty potential could outweigh that.

Samantha Brindley
Guest
Samantha Brindley
5 years 3 months ago

Love it! Totally brand right for REI and I’m sure they will make it worthwhile for customers to come back another day before 12/25 to do their shopping.

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