Black Friday has come to be known as the one day a year when shoppers’ appetites for retail goods match their craving for Thanksgiving turkey. For many, it came as a surprise when REI announced it’s foregoing juicy Black Friday sales. This year, REI is closing all of its 143 stores, and curtailing online orders until Saturday.

REI’s CEO Jerry Strizke took to the Web to comment, saying “We’re paying our 12,000 employees to take the day off and we’re encouraging them to opt out of the Black Friday madness and spend the day outdoors with loved ones.”

With its co-op structure, which keeps it from having to satisfy shareholders, REI is accountable to millions of members who receive dividends on an annual basis. As REI rolled out its campaign to “opt outside,” many criticized the move as a publicity stunt meant to bolster holiday sales.

Similar to Patagonia’s “buy less” campaign and Chick-fil-A’s decision to close on Sundays, REI’s brand is a true filter for decision-making, even if it’s at the behest of this quarter’s profits. To prove its actions are authentic, REI has to demonstrate consistent commitment to its core belief that “being outside makes our lives better” day after day, not just on Black Friday.

In the long term, REI’s decision should engender greater loyalty in addition to more committed, engaged associates. By showing “respect for our employees and their families,” REI will get 120% out of its employees on every other day of the year.

Not only has REI benefited from the free publicity of behaving counter to most other brands, it could also cash in on a segment of the population who reject the Black Friday madness (and still sell a few tent poles in the process).

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Monigle.

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