REI Black Friday Closing Shocked Retail Industry

REI will be closed Black Friday 2015. The popular outdoors store is encouraging everyone to #OptOutside on the biggest shopping day of the year instead. All 143 stores in the Recreation Equipment Inc. co-op chain will give employees a paid day off to spend enjoying activities with their families.

The retailer’s Black Friday twist shocked both its industry and staff. REI is also closed on Thanksgiving evening. A few hours after the turkey and dressing have been cleared from the table, the doors at a plethora of major retailers open to lure customers in with steep discounts and time-specific doorbuster deals.

REI closing on Black Friday has been deemed a financial risk by some industry experts, but has also been called a bold and welcomed move by others. The #OptOutside viral hashtag and related promotions encourage Americans to skip the early Christmas shopping crowds and to go exploring outdoors instead.

REI #OptOutside Commercial

REI is urging the company’s social media followers to use the #OptOutside hashtag to share images and videos of the Black Friday 2015 alternative activities they will be engaging in that day after Thanksgiving, MSN reports.

“Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea,” REI President Jerry Stritzke said. The Recreational Equipment Inc. CEO also acknowledged that he was initially apprehensive about closing the stores on Black Friday. “As a co-op … we define success a little differently. It’s much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside? The thing that is powerful to me is this clearly is not a financially self-serving act. It’s an act where we’re really making a very clear statement about a set of values.”

“Black Friday historically is the most important retail day of the year,” Marcum LLP head of of retail and consumer products, Ron Friedman, said. “It’s like a national holiday.”

During Black Friday 2014, about 86.9 million people went shopping for deals, the National Retail Federation reports. The entire post-Thanksgiving weekend has emerged as a shopping holiday of sorts in recent years. The entire weekend of doorbusters and special deals has chipped away at the allure of the 1-day only bargains that traditional promotions offered, USA Today notes.

“It makes it a lot easier for them to do this than it would for a publicly traded company,” Retail Metrics President Ken Perkins, said. “REI has also never been a huge discounter anyway, he says, and doesn’t necessarily compete with major retailers such as Target and Macy’s.”

REI store manager Brian Harrower, from Bloomington, Minnesota, said this is the first time in his 25 years spent working in retail that he has had Black Friday off. He is organizing a hockey tournament as an #OptOutside activity in his community.

“Somebody has to be the one to kind of put their flag in the sand and say enough is enough,” Harrower said. “That’s what #OptOutside is for us, is saying 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.”

REI has launched a website dedicated solely to the promotion of its #OptOutside Black Friday alternative campaign. The website guides visitors to local hiking trails and other outdoor opportunities in their area, and shares other outdoor exploring tips. The new marketing campaign was reportedly built with both its customers and staffers in mind. REI is a massive co-op business that boasts approximately 5.5 million members. The members pay a one-time fee for a share of the business. Co-op members reportedly contribute to about 80 percent of annual sales.

What do you think about REI closing Black Friday? Will you be shopping for deals the day after Thanksgiving?

[Image via Shutterstock.com]