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REI Promoting Outdoor Sports by Closing Stores for Black Friday

2 Nov, 2015


Subsequent Closing of Other Companies Highlights New Trend Among Sports Industry: Promoting Activity Instead of Commerce

One of nation's largest outdoor retailers announced last week that it will close all 143 of its stores and its online order processing for Black Friday.

REI, instead, wants its employees and customers to spend the day after Thanksgiving -- one of the busiest holiday shopping days of the year -- outside.

"We’re passionate about bringing you great gear, but we’re even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks for all of us, company officials said in an e-mail to members. "Perhaps John Muir said it best back in 1901: 'Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home.' We think Black Friday is the perfect day to remind people of this essential truth."

REI is employing the social media hashtag #OptOutside for those who forgo the shopping ritual for a day outdoors.

"While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we hope to see you in the great outdoors," officials said.

Over the past few years, major retailers have been expanding their Black Friday sales, even into Thanksgiving Day, with stores opening only hours after the turkey dinner settles. Some retailers are pushing back, refusing to open on Thanksgiving Thursday, but REI will be one of the first major retailers to close on Black Friday, too. REI employees will get the Thursday and Friday paid off, and the stores will re-open, along with online order processing, on Saturday.

"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke told USA Today. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. It's an act where we're really making a very clear statement about a set of values. How effectively do we get people outside?"

The push isn't without a marketing tie-in, as the retailer is encouraging its members to visit optoutside.rei.com to "customize their own Black Friday message and share it via social media."

So far, the idea has been warmly received and #optoutside has gone viral. In fact, Outdoor Research has jumped on the anti-Black-Friday bandwagon. The outdoor apparel and accessories brand, which shares its home city of Seattle with REI, said it will close its corporate offices, distribution center, on-site Seattle factory and retail store, in addition to launching a give-back Instagram challenge campaign, to encourage its employees and consumers to get outside, have fun, and give back. Sole, an orthopedic footwear company which is an REI vendor, has announced that it too will close in order to give its employees paid time off to adventure outdoors as a team.

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