Why REI® Decided to Close Every Black Friday – And Its Possible Impact
Since 2015, REI has remained closed on Black Friday as part of their Opt Outside movement. Initially developed as a stand against American consumerism of Black Friday, the messaging around #OptOutside was inclusive of everyone (customers and employees) who would benefit from not being able to shop at REI stores (and spending time outdoors instead). Last month, the specialty outdoor retailer announced the anti-Black Friday movement would be a permanent fixture confirming something quite remarkable: for this Black Friday and every Black Friday thereafter, REI will forgo sales at all locations and instead pay its more than 16,000 employees to enjoy time outside.
Eric Artz, the company’s President and CEO summarized their stance quite nicely stating, “Opt Outside has always been about prioritizing the experience of our employees — choosing the benefits of time outside over a day of consumption and sales. When we first introduced this movement, it was considered revolutionary for a retail brand, but we felt it was the right thing to do for our members and employees. Making Opt Outside an annual observance will serve as a yearly reminder of this commitment to doing the right thing for the co-op community.”
How the Decision Supports Their Employee-Centric Culture and Mission
REI’s decision to permanently close its doors on Black Friday is a huge win for its employees and culture. While other retailers obsess over making more sales and devote less on culture, REI chose to invest in its very brand principals and use their Opt Outside movement as an opportunity to reinforce their corporate purpose. Since its inception, the company has been encouraging people to get outside and enjoy nature for years. So, what better way to do that than by closing their doors on the biggest shopping day of the year? By paying their employees to enjoy the outdoors rather than working the day following Thanksgiving, they simultaneously demonstrate employee-centricity while whole-heartedly embracing their ethos. REI also continues to invest in the infrastructure that makes outdoor life possible for both employees and customers – and the results have been extraordinary. Since the Opt-Outside policy was launched seven years ago, REI has grown to 16,000 employees and 21.5 million members. Most importantly, the movement continues to send a powerful message about the importance of culture and remaining attentive to how your corporate purpose intersects with your most important asset – your people.
The Customer Impact
The multi-million dollar question is what impact will REI’s decision to permanently close on Black Friday have on customer loyalty? Some predict it will only make the company more appealing to its customers, as the decision aligns perfectly with the growing distaste many consumers have for the day’s annual shopping craze – all the while passionately reinforcing its very purpose. REI hopes its stance will inspire customers and other companies to rethink Black Friday and perhaps embrace a strategy with a more seasonal spirit. Others are concerned that it will make REI seem a soft target since other retailers will remain open for business. That being said, the company’s website remains open for business. With Black Friday becoming increasingly an online shopping event, REI’s move to close its physical stores is more a stamp of approval of online retail than an indictment of the day itself. REI shoppers can continue placing online orders that will immediately process the following day and honor traditional Black Friday savings. In the end, what REI will potentially lose in the day’s sales will likely be exceeded in brand goodwill and gaining further brand loyalty among its greatest customers.
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