REI is cancelling Black Friday this year in what it says is an effort to encourage customers to go outside instead.
REI’s 143 stores will be closed the day after Thanksgiving, and the business plans to launch a campaign Tuesday with the hashtag #OptOutside—aimed at inspiring people to share what they’re doing outside that day.
Black Friday is considered the most important retail day of the year, but REI’s president and CEO Jerry Stritzke said foregoing sales makes sense for the brand.
“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors,” he wrote online. “We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth."
In addition to closing its stores, REI also won’t process any online orders until Saturday, and will give all but a small percentage its employees a paid day off.
"The thing that is powerful to me is this clearly is not a financially self-serving act," Stritzke said. "It's an act where we're really making a very clear statement about a set of values."
REI hopes to start a new Black Friday tradition—one clearly centered around the outdoors. It even published a website dedicated to its effort.
According to the National Retail Federation, 86.9 billion people went shopping on Black Friday last year, and it has become more than just a day’s endeavor—many retailers begin their sales early in the week. For REI, Black Friday has consistently been a “top 10 sales day.”
But Stritzke seems to place a much higher emphasis on the good this campaign could do: “We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”