REI’s Decision To Close On Black Friday Is A Game Changer

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Photo: Chris Phan

In a decision that rocked American media on Tuesday, outdoor goods retailer REI announced that it would rather #OptOutside than open it’s doors on the day after Thanksgiving.

The holiday known as Black Friday is one of the most important financial days of the year for retailers, who typically rely on sales to make (or break) the bank. And as consumers become more desperate for discounted goods, retailers respond. Companies such as Macy’s, Target, and Best Buy have begun to encroach on the Thanksgiving holiday itself by opening at various times throughout the day. Some retailers, like Costco and Nordstrom, have fought back against Thursday openings. But REI says, “not enough.”

The outdoor retailer is making a bold move: closing it’s doors on the quintessential retail day of the year and handing it’s employees paid time off. That’s right, paid.

CEO and President Jerry Stritzke believes, “it’s an act where we’re really making a very clear statement about a set of values.” This resonates with the millions of Americans who believe Black Friday is a damaging mark on the holiday season. In fact, studies show that the number of Black Friday shoppers has steadily decreased over the last few years.

But what does it boil down to? And what do Americans actually care about?

It seems the country is split. Even as the numbers fall, close to 134 million people still participated in Black Friday. That’s 55% of the American population!

REI wants to fundamentally change this framework by creating resources for customers to find exciting ways to spend their time on Black Friday. And you guessed it—those suggestions will be centered on the outdoors. Along with a shiny new website, REI has started a hashtag called #OptOutside which gives people the opportunity to share their Black Friday adventure choices with others.

The Bloomington, Minnesota REI store manager Brian Harrower agrees with his company’s historic decision. He says, “somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough…we’re going to be the first, we think this doesn’t make sense anymore, it’s not healthy. And an outdoor life is a healthy life.”

Agreed, Brian. We’ll #OptOutside right along with you on Black Friday.

Make sure to let us know in the comments how you plan to spend your consumerism-free holiday, too!

Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r

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