Outdoor gear retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. announced Tuesday its stores won't be open on Black Friday. Instead, the sporting goods store co-op business commonly called REI launched a campaign telling its customers to ditch the frenzied lines and shopping aisles and head outside on the day after Thanksgiving.
The move is counter to many businesses that will press to turn a profit on Black Friday. Many retailers typically offer sales and reduced prices for shoppers, with stores often opening early to accommodate a full day of shopping. REI, meanwhile, is pushing people to go outside and promote the idea using the hashtag #OptOutside.
"Any retailer that hears this will be startled by the idea," said REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke to USA Today. "As a co-op ... we define success a little differently. It's much broader than just money. How effectively do we get people outside?"
— REI (@REI) October 27, 2015
The CEO told the newspaper he was a bit apprehensive at first about closing REI's 143 stores on Black Friday. But the co-op business went through with the plan, alerting its members Monday. Workers at REI have been encouraged to head outside and will paid for the day off, the company said in an email to members. The Seattle-based retailer has a reputation for treating its employees well and has been featured in Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" every year since the list's inception in 1998, the magazine reported. REI employs about 12,000 people and just a handful will reportedly be on call Black Friday.
"We’re passionate about bringing you great gear, but we’re even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks for all of us," the email read. "Perhaps [naturalist author] 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."
Many users on Twitter have responded to the move from REI positively, some suggesting they would seek to shop at the store because it chose to close on Black Friday. The long wait times and crushing crowds on the day have led to violence in the past. A website tracking deaths and injuries on the holiday lists 7 deaths and 98 injuries since 2006.
— AnnaProsserRobinson (@AnnaProsser) October 27, 2015
— OutdoorsAllianceKids (@OAK_Updates) October 27, 2015
I'm doing all my shopping at REI this year. https://t.co/AcsGQbpKi1
— Erika Hall (@mulegirl) October 27, 2015
REI operates as a co-op with its roughly 5.5 million members paying a one-time fee for a share in the business. Black Friday is typically one of the retailer's 10 best days of the year, according to USA Today. The store's website will still be functional during Black Friday, but will feature a greeting screen encouraging potential customers to explore the outdoors instead, CNN reported.