Looks like REI is choosing family over frenzy this Black Friday. Instead of herding lines of customers and hawking cut-price promotions, the Seattle-based outdoor-goods retailer will be shutting down its two distribution centers, all 143 of its North American stores, its headquarters, and even its website on one of its biggest revenue days of the year. Its entreaty to its customers and the 12,000 employees it’s paying anyway? #OptOutside, reconnect with family and friends, and enjoy nature.
“Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside,” Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI, said in a statement. “We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to #OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.”
To inspire aspiring adventurers, REI has launched optoutside.rei.com for people to recommend hiking trails, swap stories, and share photos. It’s the retailer’s way of getting a handle on a brand of consumerism that has “gotten out of hand,” Stritzke said.
“As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money,” he added. “We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well-lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors. We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles.”
The concept has clearly struck a chord. Besides prompting almost 1 million Twitter users to share the hashtag, the #OptOutside movement has also drawn dozens of state parks—including those in California, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, and Tennessee—to waive entry fees, distribute discounts, or offer complimentary guided hikes on November 27.
“Please join us and inspire us with your experiences,” Stritzke said. “We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside.”