Take it Back?

(3 minute read)

“We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand.”

Last year, outdoor goods retailer REI ran a campaign against Black Friday (what some consider to be the biggest shopping day of the year) and chose to remain closed and instead gift their employees with a paid holiday.

REI president and CEO, Jerry Stritzke, explained the decision: "We are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles." They invited their customers and employees to take back Black Friday and #OptOutside, spending the day outdoors adventuring with family and friends.

The campaign attracted media attention and was well-received, even winning accolades from Cannes Lions. The magic was in the authenticity to the brand and the execution of the decision. The company sells outdoor apparel and gear and encouraged people to spend the day outdoors instead of shopping inside. Had another retailer such as Walmart or Target tried the same tactic, it would have fell flat and felt inauthentic. 

REI was also applauded for putting employees first over profit. After all, by staying closed on Black Friday, they’re seemingly leaving money on the table. However, last year it was reported that REI.com actually saw a 26% leap in traffic on Black Friday— customers could shop and place orders, but the orders weren't processed until Saturday.

In general, holiday shopping online is on the rise. In 2015 Cyber Monday generated $3.07 billion, Black Friday $2.74 billion in online sales and Thanksgiving even saw $1.73 billion. And the trend is predicted to continue to grow in that direction in the next few years.

Whether REI is completely genuine and authentic in its decision to be anti-Black Friday, or using it as an under-the-radar advertising campaign, it’s not clear. Either way, the brand has renewed the campaign for another year, again using #OptOutside. They even recruited roughly 475 organizations to join in the promotion, including the National Park Service which is allowing free visits to parks in 22 states on Friday.


Will more and more brands embrace this anti-consumerism and anti-discount creep stance? What do you think of it?

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