Why REI Is Still Refusing to Join the Black Friday Shopping Mayhem

For the second year in a row, REI is saying “no thank you” to post-Thanksgiving shopping mayhem.

The outdoor retailer is continuing the tradition it started last year, when it closed all of its stores on one of retail’s most active shopping days, Black Friday, and urged its employees and customer to “Opt Outside” instead.

While the move was surprising and nearly unprecedented, going the socially responsible and corporately benevolent route has paid off for REI. The retailer’s buzzy #OptOutside hashtag trended on Twitter last year, and the company has won a host of awards and accolades for the campaign.

This year, in addition to closing all 149 of its doors on Black Friday, REI said it will process no online sales and pay all 12,287 employees to take the day off and head outside.

Fundamentally, we believe that being outside makes us our best selves — healthier and happier, physically and mentally. But as a nation, we’re still spending over 90 percent of our lives indoors — and it’s a trend we need to tackle,” said REI CEO Jerry Stritzke in a statement. “I love that there is a community of people in this country who dedicate their lives to that mission. So together, we are asking America, ‘Will you go out with us?’”

REI said it has also united more than 275 nonprofit, government and corporate partners to join the company around the “Opt Outside” movement — among them Subaru of America, Google and the National Park Service.

The company also created a new outdoor activity finder on its website to help people connect during the holiday season. The site, REI.com/opt-outside, will allow participants to declare support for “Opt Outside,” invite others to join the movement and find a place to play outdoors.

REI’s decision comes at a time when many of its retail peers are scrambling to reclaim lost profits after dismal holiday 2015 and are eyeing Black Friday and the Thanksgiving holiday as the next big catalyst to boost sales.

The moment we announced our decision last year, people who build their lives around the outdoors really embraced the idea of reclaiming Black Friday,” Stritzke said. “It took on a life of its own and became about much more than REI. #OptOutside should be a platform for the nonprofits and public servants who are on the front lines of the outdoor community. They’re the ones who make the outdoors accessible for everyone. That’s why, from today onward, we’re going to lift them up as the official spokespeople for #OptOutside.”

Earlier this month, Mall of America also bucked industrywide trends and announced that — for the first time since 2012 — it will close on Thanksgiving Day.

In years past, we’ve all rallied together to answer the call for 24/7 shopper access that the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend brings,” said Mall of America EVP Rich Hoge and SVP of marketing Jill Renslow in a letter to employees, in early October. “However, it also meant that team members may not have been able to share the day with family and friends. That is why this year, we have made the decision to close on Thanksgiving Day so that team members can put that energy where it matters most: into making memories with the people they care about most.”

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