#OptOut with REI

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Posted on December 1, 2015, at 6:00 p.m.
by Caroline Giddis.

The scent of honey-baked ham wafts through the living room. Family members you haven’t seen in months gather around a large table. They laugh, scoop up handfuls of sweet potatoes, and enjoy one another’s company. However, the good times will come to an end when the aunts get together and start thinking of all the things they can buy the next day. Yes, it’s Black Friday season.

Although people have varying opinions on the shopping holiday, one company has chosen to #OptOut completely: REI. The co-op style outdoor gear and apparel retailer has decided to close all 143 stores on Black Friday and suspend online shopping until that Saturday. Its revolutionary move is fueled by the brand’s backbone — to get outdoors.

President and CEO Jerry Strizke posted a letter on REI’s new website to explain why the company has chosen to skip the holiday.

“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth,” wrote Strizke.

“We’re a different kind of company — 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.”

The company has created the hashtag #OptOutside, and is encouraging its customers and employees to skip the Hunger Games-like shopping sprees and instead enjoy another day with their families in the outdoors. This bold move speaks volumes for REI’s brand integrity. By taking the risk to remove itself from the most profitable day of the year, REI is (unintentionally) taking a stand against many of the public companies who have created the Black Friday obsession.

Ben Steele, REI’s chief creative officer, told Buzzfeed, “People are certainly free to make the choices they want to make, and I want to make really clear we’re not anti-deals, anti-sales or anti-value,” Steele said. “But it’s a good conversation and it’s a nice moment for individuals and for a wider group to think about, ‘How do I spend my time? Who do I want to be?’ Those are good conversations to be having.”

REI has received outstanding support from its customers who will continue to reinforce the brand going forward because of its #OptOut move. Nowadays, people want to buy from a company with a philanthropic purpose or upstanding values – I’ve heard it’s a millennial thing. Either way, REI doing “the right thing” has garnered a tremendous amount of new fans, myself included.

Greed seems to undermine a holiday that is about being together and creating memories with family and friends, which truly impact your well-being. Companies should think about what kind of image they convey by promoting 60 percent off TVs that will “change your life!”

If you’re a fan of REI’s choice to pass up Black Friday this year, you can participate by visiting its opt-out website and sharing photos of any outdoor adventure on Nov. 27 by using the hashtag #OptOutside.

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