REI will give up one of its top business days this Black Friday, when it closes all 143 retail stores in a move to encourage Americans to spend time outside. CEO Jerry Stritzke explained that the decision to shut down “wasn’t made lightly,” and acknowledges “it’s a bit of a startling idea from a retail perspective.”
“I’m excited by the idea,” Stritzke said. “I think it’s intriguing that we can create this conversation [about] something so central to our brand and kind of who we are.”
While the day after Thanksgiving has historically been a “top 10 business day” for the company – as well as a majority of other U.S. retail businesses, this is the first time REI will close on Black Friday. Yet the company’s decision may not be as radical as it initially seems: American businesses have received increasing backlash from critics that its midnight openings force employees come into work to prepare for the shopping crush before they can enjoy Thanskgiving dinner with their families. In fact, there has been widespread opposition to opening stores on what has traditionally been a family holiday, and the day after.
Online shoppers will still be able to purchase items from REI on Black Friday, though they’ll initially be directed to a blackout screen imploring them to explore the outdoors. Online sales aren’t the initiative’s priority, however.
“It’s easier to leave [the website] on than turning it off,” Stritzke explained.