Consumers have been grousing about retailers and their Black Friday schedules for some time now. Some believe that holiday shopping is simply blown way out of proportion, while others, including some in the above category, feel that it takes away from the traditions of Thanksgiving, which involve spending time with family and staying home during an extended weekend. However, retailer REI decided last month to sit out Thanksgiving and Black Friday – good news for employees, who will be paid on both days, but what does it mean on a broader sense?
Last month, REI broke its long-standing tradition of being open on Black Friday by announcing it would be closed on that day, on top of Thanksgiving. It did, however, encourage employees and customers to embrace the outdoors and share photos and posts relating to these activities as part of its “Opt Outside” campaign. And while other major retailers will still be as busy as ever on Black Friday, REI has dared to go against the grain, which has been praised by marketing professionals for a completely different reason.
“REI earned a great deal of brand acquisition with a press release and a huge graphic on the homepage of their website,” said ReputationManagement.com president Bill Fish. “The story was covered by just about every media outlet out there. Guess what, they sell outdoor products, and they are asking that instead of shopping, you spend time with family and friends outdoors. That is by no means a coincidence.”
Indeed, REI’s move was a popular one, as 49 percent of consumers said that they aren’t in favor of stores being open on Thanksgiving in a recent poll from the University of Connecticut; in that poll, 34 percent were neutral, while a mere 16 percent were in favor.
REI has not been without some criticism. One Redditor said during CEO Jerry Stritzke’s recent Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) that the move was “BS,” sympathizing with REI employees who took to the AMA to complain about poor wages and benefits. Still, REI did emphasize that the feeling generated by its decision has been “warm,” and the fact remains that it isn’t as reliant on Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales as other companies are. That said, Fish and other experts believe that its move isn’t likely to inspire larger retailers to do the same and sit out two of the busiest shopping days of the year.