Leading outdoors retailer REI recently made headlines by announcing that all of its stores will be closed on Black Friday. This news is shocking to some because Black Friday is often the busiest in-store shopping day of the year. Why would any retailer choose to lose out on this major revenue opportunity?
Refusing to participate in the most competitive retail day of the holiday season definitely makes REI stand out. But REI is not an average retailer. They are actually the nation's largest consumer cooperative, and they keep their members’ values front and center. One of the core components of their brand is that “being outside makes our lives better.” According to their CEO Jerry Stritzke, “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.”
Although REI wants its customers to go outside, they aren’t suggesting that they completely disconnect. REI is encouraging consumers to engage with them a different way on Black Friday. The company created the #OptOutside hashtag that customers can use on social media to showcase how they are spending time in the great outdoors, likely while using REI products. The company is also encouraging their employees to do the same, and still paying them for that day.
So far, it seems that this campaign has garnered goodwill for REI. In fact, several other retailers are following suit by closing on Black Friday, and many more are opting to remain closed for the entirety of Thanksgiving Day.
Could this be an indication that the Black Friday madness is finally on the decline? Maybe so.
In 2014, in-store sales actually went down 11 percent over the Thanksgiving weekend in comparison to the previous year. Conversely, online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday last year rose to more than $1 billion in revenue.
Online retailers can find ways capitalize on this trend. One option is to offer email marketing promotions that trump in-store sales. Retailers can also send messages that highlight the ease of online shopping in comparison to the Black Friday in-store experience, to motivate more online purchases.
Whatever happens this holiday season, the #OptOutside campaign has already made a splash. It will be interesting to see if this campaign will have a long-term impact on how retailers approach their holiday marketing.