Why REI is Winning Black Friday

When I joined the retail world last year, I was disappointed to leave my family Thanksgiving night to work a 12 hour shift on Black Friday. Over 25 million people have this same issue, working at big box stores that open the night of Thanksgiving and stay open throughout the night and all day Black Friday.

REI, however, is taking a different route.


Announcing they are going to be closed on Thanksgiving day and Black Friday for the third year in a row; their 12,000 employees can actually spend time with their families and “enjoy the outdoors.”

“When you look at retail today, this playbook of promotions and consumerism, it’s not working,”REI Chief executive Jerry Stritzke stated in a Fortune article. “It feels like it’s lost momentum since then.” Stritzke also states that the company is not closing their doors as a marketing strategy because “employees and customers can see through that.”    “You don’t promote your way to love,” Stritzke said. “it’s about being a different kind of company.”

Closing REI’s doors during the kickoff of the holiday season has received positive feedback and strengthened their brand. A campaign even emerged from this move called #OptOutside where people can post their photos of their outdoor adventure.


As discussed in IMC 2, the authenticity of REI’s brand and statement is pretty strong. Few mega companies close their doors on Thanksgiving day, and even fewer on Black Friday. REI not only made this decision to let their employees spend time with their families, but also supporting their brand to enjoy the outdoors. Their two reasonings push them from generic to authentic.


Sources from: http://fortune.com/2017/10/30/rei-blackfriday/

by Taylor Maloch

32 thoughts on “Why REI is Winning Black Friday

  1. I think that it is a wonderful move on REI’s part to be closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday so that employees can spend time with their families! It seems to be out of the goodness of the company, since they state that it is not a marketing strategy because consumers “see through that.” I love the line, “you don’t promote your way to love.” I think that is so true. A company should not market or promote themselves a certain way just to gain favorability from consumers. It should be out of the goodness of the heart of the company.

    Great post!

  2. I think this is such an incredible article! The idea of a company to be different and use #optoutside is so clever. I had seen the hashtag before but had never known where it had begun.

  3. This is neat post and is very relevant to me as I have had work the long Black Friday shift. REI is a company with a great reputation and for them to allow their 12,000 employees to enjoy time with their families and enjoy the outdoors is special.

  4. I had no idea REI did this but I love it! Black Friday should never have been a thing in my eyes, or at least not the day after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time spent with your loved ones to reflect on all you have to be grateful for right at home. Black Friday pushes people to abandon their families in the pursuit of materialistic gains and to get ahead in holiday shopping. The fact that REI strongly stands against Black Friday, even when that means losing revenue, sends a clear message to consumers. This act, almost unheard of among big brands reveals what kind of brand they really are. I have so much respect for REI for standing by their true intentions and will remember this for future shopping.

  5. I can empathize with those who have to work on Black Friday..it is such a struggle! I’ve always been a big fan of REI and what they stand for, but I remember last year seeing some of their #OptOutside posts and really admiring their decision. I think in today’s consumerism style society it is refreshing to see a company re-evaluate and really put what is important about the Holidays first.

  6. wow this is an awesome statement! Having their employees be able to take off and spend the day with their families is the right thing to do, Great article!

  7. I genuinely admire what REI is doing, not just for their employees benefit, but also for the promotion of spending time outdoors. I am an advocate for spending time in nature and I could think of no better day to go for a hike than on Black Friday—the trails will be almost completely empty!

  8. I think the idea of not promoting your way to love as well as being a different kind of company is crucial when it comes to having a successful business in today’s world. You need to be different in a unique way but also remember what people can relate to so they will contribute as a consumer in your company.

  9. I love REI. There used to be one not far from my house in Cary and we would go on Thursdays to use their rock wall. I love that their treating their employees right and letting them spend time with their families on Thanksgiving.

  10. I definitely think this post is interesting, especially since I work in retail! I think that REI opting to be closed on Black Friday is a bold move, but a smart one considering their products encourage consumers to be outdoors and explore. For my personal experience, my boutique that I work out would definitely get some backfire for not opening on Black Friday and offering deals. Our business would lose a lot of money, unfortunately. A girl can dream!
    A girl who would love to stay in bed Black Friday morning 😉

  11. Hi Taylor! I love REI’s idea being a retail worker myself. It’s interesting how the company isn’t losing business and customers aren’t rioting over getting the best Black Friday deals… other companies should take notes. REI is even gaining support which is so cool to see! This is a perfect example of being the organization that steps outside of the box to keep their customers and employees in their best interest and they’ve earned respect for doing so. Great post!

  12. I really enjoyed this article and the concept behind it. I think that what REI is doing is awesome and really stands out from other companies by opting out from such a cultural holiday. I’m on board with this branding tactic by allowing employees to stay home for the holidays; it creates a very family-friendly personality for the company, which I think adds sentimental value. Great job!

  13. I found this post to be so interesting! REI went in such a fresh new direction with their closing over the holidays and it’s so on brand form them their base consumers probably feel even more loyalty to them now more than ever. I suspect the holiday closing doesn’t even hurt their sales in the end because so many just end up buying their gifts later at their own convenience.
    I especially liked when you said, “Their two reasonings push them from generic to authentic.”. That was the best way to phrase that and I wholeheartedly agree.

  14. Until reading this article, I had no idea that REI wasn’t open on Black Friday. It seems silly that stores would close on a day that so many people come to shop. But as a worker in one of those stores, or in a restaurant around the holidays, I know that time off to spend with your family is invaluable compared to those sales. I love how you said that REI went from to generic to authentic by being different. Great article!

  15. I thought this was a great movement that REI. However I feel like it was very risky and could have negatively impacted their brand, so it was a very bold move. Customers could have been mad that REI chose to do this, but instead this was a positive move. Customers saw this as an act of love from REI, and it showed that even though REI is a big company they care about their employees. Also by closing on thanksgiving, and blackFriday the store is staying true to their brand; which is all about spending time in the out doors and enjoying life.

  16. I am so glad that I read this article, because I am always pleased to hear about huge corporations giving their employees a time to breathe. This was a great move for REI, especially considering the fact that their brand is rooted in being adventurous and “outdoorsey.” I truly believe that this will resonate with their customers and foster a stronger relationship with them. I am certain that their employees will also be using WOM and will make all the other retail-slaves jealous.

  17. I was not aware that REI was doing this! I work at HomeGoods and would appreciate it if they were to give me both days off for the holidays like REI is doing for their employees. I’m sure the fact that REI will be closed for Thanksgiving and Black Friday has gotten plenty of attention but then they take it to the next level by encouraging everyone to spend time outside. That being said, I enjoyed the quote you embedded in your article from REI’s chief executive. This anecdote really brought everything together. Stritzke says that these efforts for the Thanksgiving holiday are not a marketing tactic. They stand out not because they are showing that they care about the quality of life of both their employees and their customers. After reading this article I know I plan on participating by going hiking and using the clever hashtag “#OptOutside”!

  18. I think that it is awesome that REI is closing their doors for Thanksgiving. Not only do I believe that it will give their employees time to spend with their families, but I also believe that this act will speak to the narrative that Thanksgiving had intentionally had in its conception; being thankful for the blessings in life. Over the past couple of years I have started to realize the shift from Thanksgiving being a time for family and bonding, to a time that focuses on Black Friday and Christmas. It seems that as soon as Halloween is over, companies skip over Thanksgiving, and go straight to Christmas, and the great deals you can get for presents on Black Friday. This act by REI seems to be for much more then its employees, but for conveying the values that Thanksgiving stands for. Great Article!

  19. When people talk about going shopping for Black Friday, everyone always assumes that every store across the world is going to be open. If that were the case, that would be awesome. For the people that don’t have to work from midnight til 5pm the next day. It isn’t fair to those who work and try to keep the store in a somewhat orderly fashion due to how many people are running in and out of stores constantly. After reading that REI was going to be closed for Black Friday, at first I was upset because REI has really cute things, although thinking about those employees that now get to spend time with their family made me realize that they are doing the right thing. This holiday is one of the biggest ones that is meant to be spending time with family. I am proud of REI taking a stand an opting out of being involved in Black Friday.

  20. I thought this was extremely interesting. Most CEO’s of big companies would freak out at the thought of closing their stores on black friday. I think this was a bold but smart move. More people who are shopping outside of black friday will want to shop there now due to moral values.

  21. Great post, I did not even know REI was a company until this post so I had to do a quick google search about the store and their products. With so many greedy corporations these days it is nice to see a company such as this one do things like this to help out its employees. It would be interesting to look into the profit earnings of the company and see if they really even take a hit in profits due to closing. I am sure it is not a marketing strategy to get customers to value the stores morals more than others but I bet it helps them more than it hurts!

  22. Hi Taylor!
    Really enjoyed the article as someone with an inside perspective on retail management I completely understand what it’s like to miss out on family events and holidays and how that can leave longer lasting impacts for associates. I believe it is so important to have a work-life balance and I recommend that every consumer do as I do and shop the exact same sales all week before Thanksgiving (they will be going on in nearly every single retail destination) and skip buying on Thanksgiving and Black Friday altogether! Let’s take our Holidays back!

  23. This article makes me respect REI as a company. It is a big move on the economic side to close their doors on two potentially high revenue seeking days of the year. That shows a lot about the character of the company that they actually care for not only their buyers, but their employees as well. In recent decades, the meaning of the “holiday season” has shifted almost entirely to the materialistic realm, so it is refreshing to hear that a company, as widely known as REI, has noticed that and is actually doing something about it. Huge marketing move for sure!

  24. This blog reminded me of Margaret Youngbloods essay in “Brand thinking and other noble pursuits”. REI is sending a message to their customers that they care more about morals than profits. This is a positive reflection of how the company brands themselves. Good for them. Great blog by the way. Well written.

  25. I, like many other people who read your post, had no idea that REI was closed on Thanksgiving. Every time I hear a store is going to close for Thanksgiving or really any holiday, I find it very refreshing. I think we live in a society where the notion that something is not available to us 100% of the time is outlandish. People expect stores to be open all of the time, even on days that the country deems to be a national holiday. In my opinion, if the banks are closed, so should everything else. A lot of people combat this idea with the argument that they may need something on that day and if the grocery store or department store is closed, then they will have no way to get it. But I’ve heard plenty of times from my mother and grandmother that back in the “good ole days” everything was closed on Sundays and holidays and if you needed something you would just have to learn to live without it for that day. I think it is also a smart move branding wise for REI to join the force of stores staying closed on Thanksgiving. People, like myself, think it is a great culture for a company to have and people who support a company’s culture are also more likely to consume the goods that company offers.

  26. As someone who works retail (at target) it would be a miracle if they closed their doors on Black Friday. I’m scheduled both Black Friday and Thanksgiving. I’m a long way from home, and used to spending Thanksgiving alone at this point, so I can’t say that I mind this time at work. REI seems like a great company to be apart of. From your article, I bet there are a lot of people trying to get in the doors there! Today, people want authentic, they want to know the intent behind a company. The world is changing from the days of taking things at face value. It’s refreshing knowing consumers are getting smarter about advertising and companies.

  27. Great post, even better company! I am a fan of REI making the executive decision to be closed for these holidays. I am an avid outdoorsman myself, and I work retail as well. If I had the opportunity to be off for the holidays, I would definitely #optoutside! It shows a lot about the management of REI to make this call, and I can see how it has positively impacted their company.

  28. Being a former retail employee, I am fully behind companies like REI keeping doors closed on Thanksgiving Day. When did we as a society begin to value a sale on a television more than spending time with our families ( with a perfectly good tv in the living room with the game on). I now work in a restaurant and the last day you would expect us to be open, much less be on reservations only would be Thanksgiving. However, every year the phone’s begin ringing as early as september to make reservations for their families for thanksgiving day. This requires almost the entire staff at Bluewater to work on a day they should get to spend with their own families. I wish more companies took this position, and allowed employees to spend time with their families on holidays.

  29. I love the fact that REI is thinking of its employees and creating time for them to spend with their families. I actually had no idea they opted out of black Friday so this came as a surprise to me. “REI not only made this decision to let their employees spend time with their families, but also supporting their brand to enjoy the outdoors. Their two reasonings push them from generic to authentic.” I could not have said it any better; reading this post actually made me happy for REI employees and it created a positive feeling towards the company.

  30. I love this mindset and how in making a declarative statement during one of the peak sale times during the year, a business instead chooses to allow their employees to enjoy the holidays with their families while also making a push for a strong portion of the company’s brand identity. One thing I notice (particularly in online media) is that the more organic the company and it’s messages, the more they will resonate with their customers and fan-base over time. Great article! Very clear and concise!

  31. While it is fantastic to see REI not opening their doors on Black Friday, and as someone who personally wishes other companies would do the same, I would have to disagree with the notion that closing their doors is not a marketing strategy – solely because of the #OptOutside campaign. While it is not directly encouraging people to buy outdoor equipment from REI, it is opening an opportunity to benefit from consumers that use word of mouth to communicate how good willed, if you will, these companies are and see increased support and sales in the aftermath of announcements like this. Again, I like to emphasize that companies not opening on Black Friday is a good move, not just from a marketing standpoint, but as a sign of goodwill that will ultimately please the employees and customers’ and this shapes their attitudes of those companies in a positive light, and would ultimately benefit the company in the long-run in sales and good publicity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s