Outdoor sporting goods retailer REI recently announced it'll be skipping Black Friday this year by closing all 143 of their stores -- and instead paying all 12,000 of their employees to go outside and enjoy nature for the day.
"For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors," CEO Jerry Stritzke wrote in a statement explaining the decision. "We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth."
"We're a different kind of company," Stritzke continued. "And while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us."
It's estimated that over 133 million Americans shop either in stores or online on Black Friday, that 23% of Black Friday shoppers have camped out a store overnight and that the average Black Friday shopper spends over $380 on the day after Thanksgiving.
Black Friday shopping has also long been plagued by violence and injuries as the result of deal-crazed consumers. There's even a website devoted exclusively to counting deaths resulting from Black Friday shopping.
Closing its stores for Black Friday is a bold move for REI at a time when many U.S. retailers are asking their employees to work longer and longer hours during the holidays -- much to the dismay of many retail workers and their families. Last year a number of petitions and social media campaigns popped up asking retailers and consumers alike to boycott Black Friday in support of fed-up retail workers.
According to a report from USA Today, Black Friday is normally one of REI's top sales days of the year. The Atlantic notes that REI can choose to do things like this because "it is a business, but it’s also a cooperative, meaning that its customers can pay a $20 membership fee, which gets them, among other things, annual 'dividends' that come in part from the company’s profits. REI currently has about 5.5 million members." This also means that they have zero shareholders to please.
The company is asking people to use the hashtag #OptOutside across social media platforms to share their own experiences of enjoying the outdoors instead of going shopping this year, and tons of people have already started tweeting their support for the campaign and their love for the whole concept.