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How REI Staying Closed On Black Friday Fights Consumerism…And How You Can Too

We are more than consumers

Black Friday, that infamous day after Thanksgiving when stores give great deals, starts earlier and earlier every year. The day for some retailers actually starts on Thanksgiving. JCPenney opened up at 5 pm PST on Thursday, while Kohl’s, Best Buy, Macy’s and Target opened their doors at 8 p.m. Walmart opened an hour later at 9 p.m.

Let’s make something clear about stores starting Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving. Employees of those stores must leave family behind during a holiday dinner to go to work. The good news is that not all retailers force their employees to leave their turkey dinner. There are a number of stores that shutter their doors on Thanksgiving. The list includes Costco, known to be good to its employees, Marshalls, Barnes & Noble, Sam’s Club, IKEA, and Patagonia.

REI is closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In 2015, the retailer decided to stay closed on Black Friday. “The thing that is powerful to me is this clearly is not a financially self-serving act,” REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke said three years ago. “It’s an act where we’re really making a very clear statement about a set of values.”

#OptOutside

REI does not just close all of its 153 stores for Black Friday, but does not process any online payments on that day, plus pays its employees to spend time with family and friends. The retailer that sells outdoor lifestyle products started an online movement four years ago with the hashtag #OptOutside. Since then, 15 million people and over 700 organizations have joined the #OptOutside movement.

There is a good reason why REI pays its employees to not work on Black Friday. As the company states on its website, “We pay our employees to #OptOutside, and invite the world to join.” Getting people outside is important to REI. Stritzke said that the “best data” available reveals that “in any given year, 150 million Americans don’t spend any time outside.” Or half the country. REI wants to increase the number of Americans who spend some time outside.

“We’re asking people this year to reevaluate that picture of themselves,” Stritzke explained. “To see technology as the starting point to a journey outside, not the destination. And to go explore the world with someone they love – on Black Friday and every day.”

REI noticed four years ago that “consumerism was spinning out of control,” as REI chief customer officer Ben Steele told Fast Company. He thinks that “this year it feels like the cultural context has changed.” The reason is that people are talking about choices. “Choice in terms of the notion of our relationship with technology,” he added.

While REI is the only major retailer closed on Black Friday, its rival Patagonia does not have Black Friday deals. While its stores are still open, it does not provide deals to encourage people to spend time outside and not inside stores looking for deals.

Consumerism is indeed out of control as the number of stores opening on Thanksgiving proves. But business can play a role in helping stop the tide of consumerism. As Stritzke asked during his keynote address at the 2017 Conscious Capitalism conference, “Who’s going to change the world if business doesn’t step up to the plate?”

REI made a courageous decision four years. You can make a decision to spend some time outside this holiday season, even if it is only to go on a walk. There is more to the Christmas season than buying gifts for loved ones or finding deals for yourself. There is a beautiful world outside your doors. Take some time to experience it this season.


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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