This Company Is Paying Workers To Stay Home On Black Friday

Photo: Courtesy of REI.
For many, Black Friday is about that all-day shopping marathon and serious sales. However, outdoor-gear retailer REI sees it as an opportunity to head outside — far, far away from the chaos of deal-chasing. The retailer is forgoing Black Friday altogether this year to enjoy the great outdoors, and it's imploring customers to do so as well. On the brand's website, president and CEO Jerry Stritzke announced that all 143 REI locations will be closed on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year. As part of its #OptOutside initiative, the outdoor retailer will grant its 12,000 employees from its brick-and-mortar stores, headquarters, and two distribution centers the day off with pay, according to a press release.

While you'll still be able to place orders on REI's website that day, the homepage will feature a takeover screen that will encourage customers to put down the credit card and get some fresh air, CNN Money reports. There won't be any discounts or promotions (as one usually expects on the day of aggressive shopping sprees) and orders placed on Friday won't go through until the following day. While the risk (and cost) of closing on Black Friday was considered by the company, the decision is "much broader than just money," Stritzke told USA Today. But REI has a unique business model that perhaps allows for out-of-the-box concepts like this. The outdoor brand operates as a co-op, with customers signing up for lifetime memberships (with a $20 fee to join) and receiving "a portion of the cooperative's profits each year based on a percentage of their eligible purchases," its website explains. So, encouraging customers take some me time on a holiday weekend isn't a gimmick; the retailer's philosophy has always been about putting customers first. No surprise here, but customers like that; memberships rose 20% in 2014. And, Stritzke told CNN Money, members drive approximately 90% of sales — putting them and their interests first this holiday season seems like a business no-brainer. "For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors," Stritzke wrote in his letter to customers. "We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth."
If you're in need of inspiration for your post-Turkey Day alfresco adventure, REI has created a portal on the #OptOutside page for users to explore nearby trails. (So, "I don't know where to go!" is as lame an excuse as "too full to move.") What do you think? Will you switch up your regularly scheduled Thanksgiving shopping in favor of some time spent outdoors?

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