Closing on one of the biggest sales days of the year seems like a terrible business plan, but REI is willing to take that gamble this Black Friday.
The outdoor gear company announced this year it will close all 143 locations on the day after Thanksgiving, paying all employees to take a day off and explore the outdoors.
“We’re a different kind of company — and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently,” REI president and CEO Jerry Stritzke wrote on the company’s website. “We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”
In addition to giving employees a paid day off, the company is launching a campaign to encourage others to spend the day outside instead of indoors shopping. On Black Friday, REI.com will feature a black takeover screen prompting online shoppers to leave the house. People are encouraged to share their outdoor plans for Black Friday on social media.
This will be the first year the company closes on Black Friday. According to USA Today, Black Friday has consistently been a top 10 sales day for the company in the past.
The campaign comes after a year in which the beginning of the holiday shopping season was plagued with controversy and lower than usual sales.
In 2014, the hype surrounding Black Friday lead to many companies expanding the so-called shopping holiday into a weeklong event, with “Cyber Monday,” “Small Business Saturday,” and “Grey Thursday,” which, of course, falls on Thanksgiving. While customers flocked to stores such as Kmart, Old Navy and Walmart that began Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving Day, many protested the loss of a holiday they believed to be meant to be spent at home, with family.
While REI did not open on Thanksgiving last year, the decision to additionally close on Black Friday represents a counterintuitive plan to market the company as an alternative to the aggression of big box stores.
Last year, some major chains came under fire for employee treatment, with protests held at about 1,600 Walmart locations on Black Friday.
REI may be passing up one of the biggest business days of the year, but as Black Friday sales fall due to changing shopping habits, surrendering one day of sales to keep workers happy may be worth it.
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