REI – a privately held niche retailer that primarily sells outdoor recreation gear, sporting goods and apparel – announced this week that they will be closed on Black Friday this year and instead encourage their customers to “opt out” of shopping and instead spend time outside.
In an email sent to their customers, REI stated the following:
This Black Friday the co-op is doing something different. We’re closing all 143 of our stores. Instead of reporting to work, we’re paying our employees to do what we love most—be outside. We want you to be the first to hear—not just what we’re doing, but why. We’re passionate about bringing you great gear, but we’re even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks for all of us. 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. And don’t worry, you’ll still enjoy great deals on great gear all holiday season long. But on this one day, we’re going to #OptOutside and we want you to join us. While the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we hope to see you in the great outdoors. Visit optoutside.rei.com and you’ll discover great ways to #OptOutside from coast to coast. Let’s get out there, REI.”
Shoppers are encouraged to opt out of Black Friday and instead get outside by niche retailer REI. Their message to #OptOutside was announced on Monday, October 26, 2015. (Matt Peyton/AP Images for REI)
Additionally, REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke shares the following on the #OptOutside website from REI – which also includes a countdown clock leading up to this big day.
For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth. We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us,” Stritzke shared on the REI website.
With many stores planning to open as early as Thanksgiving – including Walmart, Target TGT +0.00%, Best Buy BBY +0.00% and Kohl KSS +0.00% – and countless others opening early and staying open late on Black Friday, it comes as a bit of a surprise that REI is planning to instead close their stores. Then again, this could be among the smartest marketing moves we see among retailers this holiday season. Driving attention to their stores and rallying customers to bring attention to their #OptOutside message may just be the right combination for REI to gain holiday sales success – despite their closed stores on Black Friday. One customer who feels this way is Colorado based Heather Stinnett, who was excited to see REI announce their plans for Black Friday in an email she received this past Monday.
I love the idea that REI is closing their doors on Black Friday when everyone else seems to be opening early or worse, opening on Thanksgiving. It speaks volumes about their brand integrity, which is something I’ve always valued as a consumer. And while I hadn’t necessarily planned to shop at REI this holiday season, their message to #OptOutside has motivated me to not only get outside on Black Friday, but also to support REI this holiday season as a customer,” Stinnett stated.
Stinnett and other customers will have to wait to shop online at REI.com, as well, on Black Friday. Their bold move to close their stores also includes freezing online orders until Saturday. Additionally, only a handful of employees will be working on Black Friday while the other 12,000 plus get a paid day off… on one condition, that is. And that’s to get outside.
As always, only time will tell if this marketing move lives up to it’s expectations… but I can assure you one thing. This niche retailer of 143 stores just launched themselves some fantastic attention leading up to the busiest shopping season – not just day – of the year.