REI Pushes Back on Consumerism—You Can Too

Black Friday, that infamous day after Thanksgiving when stores give great deals, dawns earlier and earlier every year. For some retailers, it starts on Thanksgiving, forcing retail workers from their family tables to check-out counter as overfed shoppers determined not to miss a deal tear through the aisles.

The good news is that not all retailers force their employees to leave their families and turkey dinners. Several stores shutter their doors on Thanksgiving, including Costco, Patagonia, Home Depot, Lowes, and Target.

REI is closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. In 2015, the retailer chose to stay closed on Black Friday and has made it a permanent policy.

“The thing that is powerful to me is this clearly is not a financially self-serving act,” REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke told USAToday.

“It’s an act where we’re really making a very clear statement about a set of values.”


REI closes all of its 153 stores for Black Friday, does not process any online payments, and pays its employees to spend time with family and friends. The outdoor lifestyle retailer started an online movement in 2014 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 not to work on Black Friday. 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 the “best data” 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 that “consumerism was spinning out of control,” as REI chief customer officer Ben Steele told Fast Company. “It feels like the cultural context has changed,” he said. 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 promotes a similar message, encouraging customers to spend time in nature instead of in a mall.

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 hyper-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 by encouraging their customers to trade time shopping for time outdoors, even if it is only to go on a walk to notice nature’s changing season.

We can all be courageous by resisting the advertising onslaught and not buying something on Black Friday. There is a beautiful world outside your doors. Take some time to experience it this season.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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