REI Co-op is continuing its tradition of shutting down all outposts on Black Friday.
The specialty outdoor retailer announced today that it will close its 167 locations — including stores, distribution centers, call centers and its headquarters — on the holiday for the sixth year in the row. Its more than 13,000 employees, added the company, will still receive their compensation.
The annual practice, dubbed #OptOutside, was launched in 2015 as part of REI’s initiative to allow its workers to spend time with family and friends during the Thanksgiving Day weekend, which is widely considered the busiest shopping period of the year in the United States. The chain explained that the program is “increasingly important” this year, as Americans contend with the coronavirus pandemic, a turbulent election season and national civil unrest.
“In the middle of everything, we have watched as people all over the world — some of them for the first time — looked to time outside to reflect, restore and connect to one another,” REI CEO Eric Artz wrote in a letter. “In this year of unprecedented challenges staying true to our purpose, living our values and caring for our people and communities is more important than ever.”
REI added that it would close on Turkey Day, as it also does each year. A number retailers from athletic and outdoor chains like Dick’s Sporting Goods and department store Kohl’s to big-box giants Target and Walmart have made the decision to dim their lights and give their employees that day off as the COVID-19 health crisis upends the holiday shopping season. Some retailers are also offering markdowns via online channels to encourage customers to do their shopping from the comfort of their own homes.
Beyond the Black Friday holiday, REI is also allowing employees to take the day off on Election Day: It has encouraged workers to use one of its “Co-op way Days” — or paid time off for community service, advocacy, civil participation and volunteer activities — on Nov. 3. The retailer is also a member of the Vote Early Day movement, which is supported by media companies, nonprofits, technology platforms, election administrators, influencers and other businesses to help eligible voters learn about their early voting options.