REI Just Made A Bold Move Against Black Friday

October 27th 2015

Yesterday, outdoor equipment retailer REI announced that not only would they be closed on Thanksgiving, but they'd also give employees the day off on Black Friday.

USA Today has labeled it "an unprecedented move for the modern-day holiday shopping season," and the response has been overwhelmingly positive:

The "Black Friday creep."

This is a radical departure from recent holiday retail trends: More and more retailers opt to open their doors on Thanksgiving each year in what's become known as "Black Friday creep." Kmart led the pack in 2014, announcing that they would open at 6 AM on Thanksgiving and remain open for 42 straight hours—only closing at midnight after the Black Friday chaos had ended. Other big box retailers like Macy's elected to open for shoppers at 6 PM on the national holiday last year, offering "incentive pay" to low-wage workers in place of time off with their families to enjoy a turkey dinner.

Retailers have blamed the early openings on consumers, with Macy's calling it a response to a "customer-driven trend." But is that really the case? Some surveys have showed limited interest in shopping in-store on the holiday. Last year, Deloitte reported that only 13 percent of respondents planned to shop on Thanksgiving, numbers that were consistent with shoppers polled the year before. And a survey done by Best Black Friday suggested that almost half of shoppers "believe that stores should close on Thanksgiving." (Meanwhile, a 2013 survey found that 38 percent of people would be willing to shop on Thanksgiving.)

With mixed messages about consumer interest in shopping on a national family holiday—and high financial stakes for many stores—it's no wonder that even industry insiders were surprised when outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer REI emailed co-op members with announcement today: There would be no Black Friday this year. Not only will all of REI's 143 stores remain shuttered on Thanksgiving, but they will stay closed on Friday, too, encouraging people to go outdoors in lieu of shopping with the hashtag #OptOutside. With few exceptions, their employees will also get both days off as paid holidays and their website will not process online sales until Saturday, instead directing e-shoppers to go outside.

"The thing that is powerful to me is this clearly is not a financially self-serving act. It's an act where we're really making a very clear statement about a set of values," said REI CEO Jerry Stritzke of the decision. He appeared on CBS "This Morning" on Tuesday morning to discuss the decision further:

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Other stores will close for Thanksgiving, but not Black Friday.

So far no other retails have yet to follow REI's lead, but as ATTN: has written before, there are a handful of stores that stay closed on Thanksgiving:

1. Staples

In a reversal from 2013 and 2014, Staples has pledged to stay closed on Thanksgiving this year. The company made the announcement Oct. 1, saying that they will open at 6 AM on Black Friday instead. "We want our customers and associates to enjoy Thanksgiving their own way," said Staples president of North American stores and online Demos Parneros.

2. P.C. Richard & Son

Electronics, appliance and mattress retailer P.C. Richard & Sons will be closed for Thanksgiving, continuing a 106-year tradition of remaining closed for the holiday.

3. GameStop

The electronic game store confirmed rumors that they would avoid "Black Friday creep," issuing a statement Oct. 12 that they would remain closed on Thanksgiving. "We believe strongly that our customers and associates should have the opportunity to spend the Thanksgiving holiday relaxing with family and friends, and not worrying with the stress of where to find the best shopping deals," said executive vice president Mike Buskey of the decision.

4. Mattress Firm

The 2,300 store company will continue 26 years of remaining closed for Thanksgiving and open no earlier than 8 AM local time on Black Friday, according to ThinkProgress. "We appreciate the hard work and dedication of our employees throughout the year and believe they deserve to spend the holiday with their loved ones," Mattress Firm president Ken Murphy told ThinkProgress in an email.

5. Half Price Books

Rounding out the list is Half Price Books, a discount book retailer that will shutter all of their stores across 16 states in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nordstrom, Costco, and other large retailers joined the list of those staying closed on Thanksgiving last year as well.

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